Be Prepared


Be Prepared
A.J. Gary

In 2015, we wrote about David Maxwell, then the chief of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management who was calling on Arkansans to prepare for a changing climate. “We have to base our preparations and thoughts on what scientists are telling us,” he said.

Since 1953, Maxwell said at the time, Arkansas had experienced 59 presidentially declared disasters. But during just the eight and a half years he had headed ADEM, the state had seen 17 presidentially declared disasters. In the two years since that story was published, there have been three more disaster declarations for the state. With last week’s tragic flooding, there no doubt will be one more.

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he will ask officials to study why the Black River in northeast Arkansas has experienced three “100-year floods” in the last nine years. Last week’s 100-year flood caused the 8.7-mile Running Water levee along the Black to fail, though it had been rebuilt after it failed during flooding in 2008 and 2011.

The levee had been rebuilt to 3 feet higher than the level reached in the disastrous 1927 flood, the worst in Arkansas history. “The levee did its job,” Randolph County Judge David Jansen said. “It was built for 28 feet. We had water going over it.”

Just last August, catastrophic flooding in Louisiana caused at least 13 deaths and $8.7 billion in damage, according to Louisiana Economic Development. LED estimated that at the peak of the flooding, operations at 19,900 Louisiana businesses, nearly 20 percent of all Louisiana businesses, were disrupted.

Arkansas has a new ADEM director now, A.J. Gary. He and Gov. Hutchinson must not allow the politicization of the issue to prevent the state from confronting a changing climate. They owe it to the citizens of Arkansas to be prepared.