A winter storm dubbed Dion that passed through the area starting Thursday and continuing into the first part of this week, crippled transportation, knocked out power to thousands, and saw school districts utilize snow days.
One of the hardest hit areas locally was the Booneville Human Development Center, where Highway 116 had to be cleared multiple times due to downed trees, which took power, phone and fiber optic cable lines with them.
Utility crews were still working Monday morning to replace snapped poles and restore power to the center that is home to about 125 developmentally disabled individuals. There were upwards of 100 trucks en route to the site Monday. In the meantime generators were engaged in all living areas and the Commons Building, or kitchen.
Sequestered of sorts, BHDC clients and staff watched movies and played games to pass the time.
BHDC officials, some who were working in buildings where the temperature was in the mid-40s Monday, have been told it could be as late as Wednesday afternoon before power if fully restored. Then they will worry about fiber optic cabeling and phone service.
Thankfully, officials said, there have been no issues with staffing, food or generators.
Officials also credit Booneville Mayor Jerry Wilkins with repeated interaction with power company officials on their behalf. Wilkins was also saluted on the Booneville Democrat’s Facebook page for checking on residents in Eastwood Addition after power was lost a second time.
As many as 60,000 in Arkansas were without power at the peak of the storm, but by Monday morning, those numbers were down to 4,500 Arkansas Valley Electric customers, according to the utility’s website. There were another 675 Logan County AEP/SWEPCO customers without power Monday, according to a map on its website.
Booneville schools were closed Thursday, Friday and Monday. Magazine schools dismissed at 1 p.m. on Thursday and were closed on Friday and Monday.
Other than the two-week Christmas break and spring break week, Booneville Schools has only one holiday on its calendar, on Feb. 3. The last day of school is planned for May 23.
Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC) crews were on alert Friday for the possibility of chainsaw and dozer response needs, should counties request assistance.
Consequently, the Logan County AFC crew worked with residents early Friday using chainsaws to clear a road so that a family member could be taken to the hospital. Later, this same county crew brought chainsaws and a dozer to help clear back roads in rural Logan County of slush and debris near Brushy Mountain Road.