Governor Asa Hutchinson’s Weekly Radio Address
Governor Hutchinson’s weekly radio address: after the storm
The process that led to the declaration officially began at 5:34 a.m. on March 30 when the director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management informed me that a tornado had touched down around 4 a.m.
In the weeks that followed, leaders from local and state emergency agencies joined FEMA investigators in inspecting homes and structures to estimate the dollar amount of damage.
The tornado remained on the ground for eight minutes and cut a swath through Washington County that was as wide as the length of nearly four football fields.
Less than ten people were injured and we were lucky that no one died in this storm.
Hours after the storm, volunteers from Springdale and nearby communities, members of church-based disaster relief teams and representatives from nonprofits showed up to help the county dig.
In my seven years in office, I’ve declared too many disaster areas after they’ve been flattened by a tornado or washed away by a flood. I flew over houses without roofs or completely razed. I saw automobiles overturned far from where the wind had lifted them. I have seen fields of soybeans, corn and cotton submerged by the rushing waters of historic floods, which sometimes tear away pieces of the levees that protect towns and farms along our rivers.
My role in these events usually begins the same way, with a phone call from my director of emergency management.
Sometimes it’s a call from another state’s Corps of Engineers, who informed me on a beautiful spring morning in 2019 that water from Oklahoma would soon clog the Arkansas River and threaten our state up to in Little Rock.
While managing the response to a natural disaster is one of the most challenging jobs of a governor, it is also one of the most rewarding because I witness the best in people emerging in the worst times.
I see firsthand the kindness and personal sacrifice of the Arkansans who ignore the risks to their personal safety to help their neighbors. First responders run towards danger to make sure everyone is out safely. Power company workers climb ice-encrusted poles in freezing weather to restore power. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals are showing up to replace existing staff.
We hold our breath when we hear that severe weather is likely, and when the dark, low clouds blow in as they have done again this week, we wonder where the storm will go and how it will end.
We can only guess what will happen, but we can always be sure of one thing after every calamity. We know that after every storm, the Arkansans will emerge by the hundreds to rescue and comfort the victims and begin to rebuild regardless of their personal inconveniences.
So today, I express my thanks to the hundreds of volunteers and disaster relief organizations that respond to crises. These include the Red Cross and several faith-based organizations and churches.
I am also announcing today the awarding of individual assistance of $100,000 which will be available to cover part of the owners’ loss.
The Small Business Administration will make low-interest loans available to affected businesses.
One of the many things on my list of bragging rights is the compassion and courage of the Arkansans.