Huckabee Tours Region 8 Destruction

April 4, 2006 – Posted at 7:12 p.m. CST

MARMADUKE, AR -- Governor Huckabee toured tornado ravaged Northeast Arkansas to assess damage from Sunday's storms.

Huckabee says the areas should be eligible for Federal Aid. State legislators are already working to pass an assistance package. The Governor flew over a number of damaged areas before landing in Marmaduke Tuesday to get a first-hand look at the damage.

"Seven years and one day, I was hit again and I have nothing," said Marmaduke Resident Altie Stewart.

"It's gone," said two-year-old Heidi Robinson.

Tuesday in Marmaduke, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee surveyed the damage for himself.

"Quiet frankly, it was so much worse when we saw it today then I think what we had anticipated," said Huckabee.

Worse than anticipated for Stewart who has lived in Marmaduke for 30 years and now must go through the ruble where her house once stood.

"You don't know how it hurts," cried Stewart.

Others have just shells of their homes remaining, leaving small reminders of their pre-tornado life.

"The kitchen and the master bedroom are still intact but everything else is just gone" said Marmaduke Resident Nikki Robinson as she stood by her two-story home, reduced to ruble.

"It blew away," said Heidi Robinson.

Vivid memories for a two-year-old fleeing her home before it was practically destroyed.

"It almost landed on top of me," said Heidi Robinson.

Millions of valuable possessions were destroyed, but no lives lost.

"I said one thing about it, I said, 'we've got our lives,'" said Stewart.

"I wish we could replace every baby book, every photograph, and every wedding picture. We can't, there's no way," said Governor Huckabee, "But it's so much more important today to realize that we don't have to replace any people."

Now the tight community of Marmaduke must cleanup the Region 8 way.

"Individuals that show up with a chainsaw and a pickup truck and nobody has paid them a dime and they aren't asking for anything. They are doing it because they are good neighbors and they know it could have been them," said Huckabee.

No one was killed in Arkansas, but the storm system claimed 27 lives, 23 of them in Tennessee. About half of the buildings in Marmaduke were destroyed. An American Railcar Industries plant was damaged and the company shut down the facility. A number of rail cars in inventory were also damaged. The company says it is insured.

Huckabee did a helicopter fly-over of Marmaduke this morning before landing at approximately 10 a.m. Huckabee has declared disaster areas in five Region 8 counties: Cross, Fulton, Greene, Randolph and White. Disaster areas have also been declared in Conway and Hot Spring counties. The governor also has released $200,000 from a disaster fund to help people with storm losses.