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Arkansans Take Creative Steps to Deal with River Flooding

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Nathan George in front of his 1947 Aeronca Champ

 

As the Arkansas River recedes, bridges have reopened in towns like Ozark and Russellville, but that wasn’t the case last week.

In Ozark, Arkansas Highway 23 closed just south of Arkansas River, which led to the historic bridge being closed for several days. For those who lived south, getting to work in Ozark was difficult to say the least.

Jason Woolsey, who lives about a five minute drive from his Ozark dental office, instead he drove east to Scranton, about 45 minutes, then north to Clarksville, and west to Ozark on Interstate 40 – one-way drive of nearly 90 minutes.

As for Dardanelle’s Nathan George, he lives about 30 minutes from his office at Arkansas Tech University where he serves as the director for the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center.

The river crossing between Dardanelle and Russellville on Arkansas Highway 7 was never fully closed, just down to one lane, but George had an idea.

“I have been a pilot since 1990,” George says. He owns a 1947 Aeronca Champ, the plane he has owned since he became a pilot. “I actually got my license in this airplane,” George says.

Getting to the airport wasn’t a problem for George, who has a private airstrip on his “farm between Mount George and Centerville” in Yell County.

“I flew just [last] Friday to avoid traffic and while roads were very questionable,” he said with a laugh. “I also wanted a view of the levee break since I would fly right over this. We live just south of Holla Bend but our farm did not flood, however many of my friends got flooded.”

George has been at Arkansas Tech since 2012 and previously served in the Arkansas legislature, a bit of a family tradition, from 2004 to 2010. He also worked as a teach and coach in Dardanelle, while owning a cattle, poultry and timber farm in Yell County and also serves a director for Danville’s Chamber Bank.

While George’s farming operation wasn’t damaged, others in the River Valley aren’t so lucky.

Rob Anderson, a spokesman for Arkansas Farm Bureau, says his organization has been working with farmers there and around the state before the flood happened.

“We have been very aggressive at telling the farmer’s perspective as the floodwater approached and as it arrived,” he says. “ In fact, our President Randy Veach and Vice President Rich Hillman went to [Washington] D.C. last week to meet with the Arkansas delegation on Capitol Hill about the huge problems our farmers and ranchers were already facing because of heavy spring rains and trade issues.”

Some in the delegation, like U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, whose hometown is Dardanelle and where his parents own a farm, were already aware of the issues.

“Obviously we will continue to be an advocate for them after the water recedes, as there will be tremendous need,” Anderson adds. “It is difficult to get an assessment of damages or economic impact at this point, as the situation is ongoing.”

Indeed, while flood water are receding at Dardanelle and points west, as of Wednesday afternoon, that wasn’t the case down river as Little Rock is cresting, while Pine Bluff and Pendleton are expected to crest Friday, June 7 and Sunday, June 9 respectively.

READ MORE: Officials Predict Historic Flooding of Arkansas River

Image courtesy of Nathan George

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