Tuesday, May 17, 2011

EDITORIAL >> Arkansans praised around the world

The water’s receding. Most roads are open and homes are drying out. The cleanup continues as the worst flooding in decades moves south, although pockets of Arkansas remain underwater. Neighbors have helped each other cope with the disaster, although some were hurt and at least one person was killed in our area. Little Rock Air Force Base had a close brush with calamity as it survived a tornado that struck homes and several C-130s.

We may have been down, but not out. Stiff upper lip and all that.

People around the world have seen the tornadoes and floods and marveled at our resilience. Reporters from all over the country have been calling to check on us. Despite the mayhem, the storms made heroes out of many Arkansans.

The sun was shining Sunday afternoon while Russell Petty sat in a chair outside his home on Hwy. 70 in DeValls Bluff, surrounded by mounds of dirt and thousands of sandbags and hundreds of yards of Visqueen plastic that saved his home from being flooded two weeks ago.

Dozens of people worked for eight days digging up a moat around Petty’s home. They brought as many as 20,000 sandbags by boat and drained water out of his yard, saving his property.

The place reminds you of trench warfare during the First World War. There’s all that dirt and plastic and sandbags, but Petty’s tidy little home is neat and dry.

“The water came up to the top of the mailbox,” Petty says.

He was an island in a lake. The White River behind him is just receding to normal levels. The asphalt on Highway 70 is buckled near his home.

Carl Wilson lives several miles up the road, and when he heard on the scanner that Petty needed help, Wilson drove right over and helped put up sandbags for several days.

Wilson, 70, returned on Sunday to see how Petty was doing. “Our prayers have been answered,” somebody said.

The nearby community of Beulah is apparently washed away, although the water has receded by I-40, which was closed for 10 days because it, too, was flooded.

A former reporter from KTHV-TV in Little Rock who now works for a Baltimore TV station had Petty on a morning show last week. The New York Times published a long feature about Petty over the weekend.

The Daily Mail in London and the Times of India also featured the miracle that saved Petty’s home. The word out there is that Arkansas is special. This is where neighbors don’t forget each other. They help you save your home and clean up your yard when the debris builds up and feed you when you’re hungry and give you a place to stay when your home is flooded till it dries and it’s not too wet to plow. —Garrick Feldman