May 07, 2021

When I went to work Monday a friend showed me a picture of some of the damage caused by the extreme rains over the weekend.  While some were buffeted with high winds and even a small tornado, most of the damage in our county was caused by flooding.  That included several low water bridges, including the bridge across the river on the west side of town where I work.  The waters had been so fast that it took out the bridge. While this only serves a few families, it was the only access they had across the river and into town.  I was told there was a one lane dirt road that could serve as a go around.  The bridge being out meant a huge inconvenience for those on the other side.  It will also take a while to fix.

When I worked as director for a conference center in Kansas the state decided they needed to replace the bridge that provided access to the camp.  When they first brought the proposal to me, I was told the bridge would be out for four months during the summer, the main camping season.  While I had little clout to change the date, delays for materials and a major business located further down the road meant it was delayed until the fall.  We also had a go around, but it was four miles out of the way along dirt roads the few knew existed.  I received constant calls for directions while the bridge was out.

The fast-moving storm passed through west-central Arkansas Monday night.   Winds up to 90 mph hit Van Buren around 10 pm.  The storm and resulting EF-1 tornado moved through mostly rural county but also left damage in Alma.  Arkansas Valley Electric reported that they had approximately 14,500 members where the power was out after the storm.  The outage stretched across Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Pope, Sebastian, Logan, and Scott counties.  Damage to the Crawford County Court House was centralized on the roof of the building as well as the many fallen limbs across the property.  Debris from the building was blown across the lawn of the courthouse and across the street to neighboring parking lots.  The local school districts shifted to virtual learning, but the power was out in many areas.    Rather than snow day schools now need to have virtual out days.

Thoughts:  By Thursday evening the power had been restore to all but about 100 customers.  While that is good for most, it means it is still out for 100 families.  The administrations $2 trillion infrastructure proposal includes $100 billion to give every American access to affordable, reliable, and high-speed broadband.  Virtual schooling during the pandemic has highlighted the disparity between wealthy urban areas and poor and rural area’s access to broadband.  Some in congress are decrying the proposal, saying Wi-Fi is not infrastructure.  I guess you can say that if you have access.  Having been on the other side, it seems more essential when it is out.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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