How Highland has prepared four years after devastating storm

HIGHLAND, AR (KAIT) - A little over four years ago, the Sharp County town of Highland stood right in the path of a huge storm that moved through the area.

The town lost its fire department, several businesses, and received thousands in damage to homes and buildings.

Is Highland better prepared than it was four years ago? Has it recovered economically from the disaster?

I headed North to find out.

Mayor Richard Smith and I stood outside City Hall waiting for Chief of Police Jeremy Stevens to join us.

I asked Mayor Smith if the town was better prepared now.

Smith, "At the time when all this happened, chainsaws we had but one or two, pole saws we had a couple, we had minimal equipment. Lesson learned it was time to go out and beef up that equipment."

One important item the city lacks is tornado warning siren. Even though it's easy to get information from television, radio and cell phones, cities still need these sirens. Mayor Smith said his warning from the last tornado led to some doubt as to it's reality.

"We were alerted by a pickup truck full of guys come whistling in here saying tornado is right behind us." Smith said with a grin.."We were a little skeptical."

Someday they will be able to get the funding to install a system. Sirens for the city could cost upwards of 80 Thousand dollars.

At this point Police Chief Jeremy Stevens joined us and showed me his departments new Hummer they had bought from the Army.

Stevens says this high-profile truck will be used to access areas where they can't take a patrol car. I asked Stevens if this rig would have been useful 4 years ago?

Stevens, "It would have been useful then and it will be useful now. I wish we had more equipment like this."

The piles of debris have been gone for several years but empty slabs still line Highway 62 as a reminder of businesses that have gone away.

Gary Cobb rebuilt his business, Ann's Flowers. Cobb says there was a little silver in the clouds that day 4 years ago.

Cobb, "As long as nobody was killed, and like my building here it was 20 years old and now it's 4 years old."

Cobb says economic recovery has been slow. He says there are way too many empty buildings.

"In between the recession and the tornado it really put a damper on things." Cobb said, "It's slowly coming back but it's very slow."

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