During our darkest days, Arkansans and all Americans are a shining glimmer of resilience. We come together to help others in need. In the days following the deadly tornadoes in the Oklahoma City area, many Arkansas groups mobilized efforts to help and that continues today. Unfortunately, our state also recently experienced the force of Mother Nature. More than a dozen tornadoes touched down in Arkansas alone in late May, some of which were deadly. Now those same groups are reaching out to help their neighbors.
Tornadoes are some of the most violent weather conditions we face. We’re familiar with the sound of the sirens in Arkansas but the recent storms have given us all a reason to reevaluate our own emergency preparedness plan. Recent news reports indicate an increase in business for storm shelter companies while some communities are rethinking safe rooms for citizens to use in times of dangerous weather.
While we often rely on forecasters to predict the weather and tell us where the biggest threats are, sometimes we can’t expect the toll nature will take. Some of the storms in Arkansas brought record flooding, and cut lives short. I know the thoughts and prayers of Arkansans are with those impacted by the storms, and our hearts are heavy for those who lost loved ones.
Scott County Sheriff Cody Carpenter and Arkansas Game and Fish Officer Joel Campora were responding to call for help from the rising waters in the Y City area near the Fourche La Fave River when they were killed in the flood waters. Both men chose a career in public service because they wanted to help people so much that they were willing to give their lives for it. They are truly heroes. Senator Pryor and I honored their service and sacrifice on behalf of a grateful state, on the Senate floor.
The American Red Cross provided shelters to families in Scott County and many church groups and other public and private organizations donated time and money to help ease the burden during this difficult time.
My staff and I have been working with state and county officials to make sure Arkansans all over the state are getting the help they need. Governor Beebe declared Cleburne, Cross, Garland Montgomery, Poinsett, Polk, Scott, Stone and Van Buren Counties as state disaster areas. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assessment teams are in Arkansas evaluating the damage.
Although Arkansas has a history of severe weather, it does not make the burden lighter after a storm. However, it is not the storms that define Arkansans. It is their response that is always a testament to their character. It is moving to watch communities come together to rebuild, and to watch helping hands reach across the state to support a neighbor in need. We are here to help you, and will not stop until all communities are rebuilt.