One of the worst ice storms in Northwest Arkansas history

One of the worst ice storms in Northwest Arkansas history

I set out yesterday morning to try to get back to Fayetteville.  It didn’t turn out quite that way.  My flight left at 3:00 p.m., so I got up and got dressed, checked e-mail once again, read the paper, grabbed a quick bite of breakfast and headed to the airport.  The cab driver was talking about the weather, and he said that’s why he lives in Phoenix so he doesn’t get our kind of bad weather.  He said the worse they have to deal with is how hot it gets in the summer time, and when he sees tornados and ice storms in other places he’d much rather have the hot weather (so that was the ride to the airport).  I checked in for the flight which was delayed (as a lot of flights were because of the weather).  We arrived at Dallas and when we got there the flight to XNA was delayed and changed gates several times.  After finally boarding the flight, we got to XNA and the pilot came on the intercom system and told us that because of the very low visibility caused by fog, he would be unable to land.  He was going to try to circle and see if we could wait it out.  It got to a point where we had to make a decision because of fuel, so we ended up going over to Tulsa.

At Tulsa we were offered the option to either fly back the next day or get on a bus and be bussed back to Northwest Arkansas.  By this time it was 10:30-11:00 p.m. at night and I knew that even if I arrived at XNA all the shuttle drivers would be gone, and I didn’t have a way to get back to the house.  Plus it’s not a good idea to arrive at the house at 2:00 a.m. in the morning in icy conditions.  It seemed a better option to me to stay over for the night in Tulsa which is what I did.  The flight was then rescheduled for the next morning from Tulsa to XNA.  All we had to do the next day was check in and say, “I’d like to get back on my flight.” Well that sounded like an easy thing to do, but when I showed up at the airport at 7:00 a.m. in the morning for the 8:05 a.m. flight, there was a lot of confusion.  The flight didn’t show up because it wasn’t regularly scheduled and I didn’t have a ticket from Tulsa to XNA which of course made sense because there are no regular flights from Tulsa to XNA.  The supervisor came out and we got all that straightened out.  I checked my luggage and went upstairs to go through security.  I had not been issued a new boarding pass because this was a continuing flight.  Unfortunately the boarding pass I had had the date of the day before because, well of course, it was a continuation of a flight from the day before.  The TSA Agent would not let me through with the boarding pass that wasn’t dated with the current day’s date, so back down to the reservation clerk I went, who then called back upstairs to TSA and I was finally allowed through security. 

When I got to the gate, it turned out there wasn’t a plane.  It was very strange.  We changed gates several times and it got to be kind of a joke because I would just follow the crew since I remembered them from the night before.  When I saw them get up and move, I would get up and move.  We did this for about an hour and a half when finally it became very apparent that I was the only passenger for the flight from Tulsa to XNA.  Tulsa air traffic was having a difficult time scheduling this unscheduled flight.  Eventually, at about 10:15 a.m. we were able to take off once extra weight had been added because there was only one passenger and one set of luggage and we made a short 17 minute hop over to XNA.  It was pretty fun.  I got to visit with the crew a lot.  They were hilarious and they would say things like, “Cynthia, please put on your seat belt,” or “We’re going to be flying at so many feet and blah, blah, blah,” but everything was personally directed to me.  We just had a good time with it.

Some of the devastation left from the ice storm

Some of the devastation left from the ice storm

I landed at XNA and the shuttle driver brought me to my house and that’s when I saw all the devastation.  It was amazing how many trees were lost and power lines were down.  It was stunning.  I had never seen anything like it.  If it weren’t for the ice itself, it would have looked like a tornado came through.  I have to say that I’m a very blessed person because during this whole thing of trying to get home, some really wonderful things happened that remind me of the strength of our law school community and of living in Northwest Arkansas.

First of all, my mom’s landlord relocated her to a warm apartment, but in the meantime Dean Kilpatrick went over with her camp stove and cooked her some nice warm soup and coffee.  I shall always be grateful to her for that.  Also, Prof. D’lorah Hughes was able to get out and took my mom groceries and some barbeque which was what she had a taste for.  In addition to that, I had been getting text messages and calls from an alumnus Terry Smith who lives in Kansas that said, “It looks really bad over there, do you need some help?” and I said to him, “Yeah, I probably will.  Let me get back and I’ll call you.” And when I pulled up in my yard, I called him and said, “Terry, I do need help.” Would you believe that Terry drove all the way from Wellington, Kansas with a chainsaw and tools to help me get the branches and debris cleared from my front lot?  It was amazing.  He is a wonderful person and I’m grateful to him for his terrific kindness.

Terry Smith
Terry Smith

 

Terry and I worked from early Saturday morning until it got dark, and then again on Sunday.  I did take time out to go to church, but when I came back Terry had already started again and had cut up a lot of the branches which I then hauled over to the pile.  We also cleared a lot of the major debris from my neighbor, Ms. Pilcher’s house.  She is a senior citizen who lives across the street, and is a good friend and a member of the church as well, so we got a lot of that cleared for her.  I have to tell you that it was very hard work.  The thought that somebody would come over to spend two days working that hard is just an amazing testament to the depth of our friendship and again how truly blessed I am.  For lunch Saturday we went to Buffalo Wild Wings.  We got the pile of debris set out for the city to come and pick up and took a break Saturday night.  For dinner we ate at Red Lobster.  Sunday we didn’t take a break, but worked through the whole afternoon.  As it turned out, Terry had to get back to work on Monday when he thought he might have been off.  That is an incredible friend to drive over, work like that, and then drive four hours back and rest to get up early for work on Monday morning.  I’m just truly grateful to him for that.

After Terry left in the early afternoon, I finished the task of hauling all the branches he had cut out to the curb and also hauling my neighbor Ms. Pilcher’s branches out to the curb for pickup.  By the time I got done with that it was late in the afternoon.  I was cold, tired and hungry and quite frankly a little banged up from all the yard work.  I drove to Flying Burrito because I knew that they had wireless internet and were kind of quiet on Sunday.  I sat there and had a big burrito and a bottle of beer and checked out my e-mail.  I finished up and headed home to a very cold house, about 44 degrees.  My approach to dealing with the cold house was to go in, get into a bunch of sweat clothes, get into a cover tunnel, and call it an early evening.  It wasn’t the most pleasant thing in the world, but when I thought about the people who were without power for a week or week and a half even beyond me, it gave me some perspective.  Also it made me think about the people who went through the tornado in Oklahoma as well as Katrina, and the floods this summer.  Once in a while the whiny part of me came out just because I really don’t like being cold, but it did make me stop and think about what it would be like without modern conveniences.

The entire time from Tuesday through that Sunday, there was no power.  In fact, I didn’t regain my power until the next Tuesday, but that’s another story.  In addition (as you might imagine), the telephone lines were down and cable was out.  Mt. Sequoyah was one of the hardest hit areas because it is so wooded.  The trees took out a number of telephone and electric poles and that all had to be restrung.  Many people, again I’d say a testament to the law school community on Facebook, offered me to go over to do laundry, stay at their houses, and offered to bring me food.  I did get some help cutting a frozen lock off the gate so the electric guys could get in to make repairs.  I’m very, very grateful to the many members of the law school community who offered help.  It was a wonderful bonding experience.  By the way, I forgot to say that after I arrived at my house on Friday and before Terry came over on Saturday, Michele Payne and her husband Jimmy somehow navigated the Mt. Sequoyah hill and took me to the law school where a number of students had been camped out because they were without power as well.  I was able to check on them, check e-mail and check on members of the law school community.  Again, just a wonderful spirit of cooperation, friendship and caring displayed by the law school community throughout the whole ordeal.  I’m very grateful to everyone for that.

Advertisements