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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cross-Posted From our Friend Dr. Bill Smith

Where Has the ARRA News Service Been?

Bill Smith (Ozark Guru), ARRA Editor:
The ARRA News Service originates in the heartland of America - right in center of the Ozarks. On Monday a severe ice storms hit the Ozarks. The ice had 36 hours to accumulate on all limbs. This has not occurred in this region for about 8 years. However, all local news reports depicts that residence who have lived here all their lives have not seen this severity in an ice storm and resulting damages.

The storm ranged from Oklahoma to Tennessee and Kentucky. The devastation to the trees was beyond imagination. To quote one source, "The property damage has been exponential. Limited business and all walks of life were affected." As trees snapped and crashed all night, it sounded like a war zone. By Tuesday, yours truly joined hundreds of thousands across the region losing power. As of Sunday evening, we still do not have power and the power company isn't offering much hope for a quick recovery. It is a little frustrating in that our neighbors just a mile of us to the North have their power restored. But such is the nature of the situation.

We were totally blocked in with our lane to the main road totally covered with downed trees or hanging tree limbs. By Wednesday, with the Sun shining and the ice melting, I started up the chainsaw and started clearing but unfortunately the task was going to take several days and some areas with hanging tree tops was too dangerous and their no way to get around them. However, our neighbors who were staying in town sent some of their workmen out with a huge front end loader and in a couple hours had our lane opened. God bless them!

We know that living in the Ozarks requires planning for emergencies and temporary power outages. We had some wood stored up and water put away. But, we did not plan for the potential of many days and possible a month before power is restored to all the people in the area. Our water ran out fairly quickly; so we gathered ice, snow and the run off from the melting ice on the roof to have water for "necessary' things. After five days the power was restored to some in the Mountain Home, AR area which is 10 miles north of us. Some friends who had power invited us to use their showers, God Bless them!

Also the local volunteer fire departments and emergency services had arranged for water and meals if needed. Since we were eating up everything because the refrig was gone and the freezer was starting to lose its use, we didn't need meals. We used the gas grill outside to heat water, coffee and for cooking meals. My wife is a champion at getting things done and a great cook even on the grill.

Yesterday, we were able to make it to Mountain Home and buy needed items (food, batteries - a very hard to get item, etc. Lowes, Home Depot and Wal-Mart shipped in truck loads of generators to the areas which arrived on day three and were sold by day four. People who could get out came to Mountain Home and stood in line for hours. There was no price gouging. From the radio (nice to have batteries), we heard that all the generators had been sold. When stopped by Home Depot to see if they had some batteries as Wal-Mart and other stores were out, I noticed someone leaving with a generator. I asked if there were any left and they advised that there were still four left. We bought one and I set it up today and right now with the phone, thus the Internet, temporarily restored, the generator is powered up and I am posting this story.

As bad as it has been, there are others in far worse situations. Deaths are still at a minimum. However, many fear what will be found in a few weeks as mountain roads and lanes are cleared and families are finally reached. Crews from all over the country have arrived to help the local power companies. God Bless them!

But the biggest problem is clearing the fallen trees both from the roads and from power line areas so these people can do their job. Also the crews had to be housed along with the people who left their homes with no power for shelter in the local communities. The churches have been fantastic in opening their facilities to house, sleep and feed people. For some reason our local community, Arkansas State University Mountain Home which has extensive new facilities build with taxes by the local residents has not offered assistance even though they had full power restored early.

Also, yesterday after a delay of five days and constant pleas for assistance, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe finally agreed to order the National Guard from the Southern regions of the state not hit by the ice storms to provide assistance. The county and community leaders and power company officials have pleaded from day one for assistance. They needed the National Guard to help clear roads and to travel the isolated roads to check on people to see if they are okay. It has become clear to all, that Arkansas state officials were not prepared to address this emergency.

I regret that the daily Washington updates and other items could not be posted. However, my sources have kept sending me input and I just downloaded over 5000 emails. So I may even post a few items retroactively. We still do not have power and the phone system is intermittent as they have the substations on generators. But be assured the ARRA News will return. Please pray for the people in the Ozarks and for the power to be restored sooner than anticipated.

God bless you as well!