Update from N. Ark. Electric Co-op CEO

Jonesboro (KAIT) - Mel Coleman, CEO of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative provided these updates earlier today:

Just an update.......from all indications overnight it appears we have in excess of 30,000 members without power this morning.  Last night the situation became very dangerous as the remaining timber began to shed limbs compromising the safety of our construction crews.  By noon today we expect to have the remainder of the 30 to 35 crews here with us to begin the restoration process, which we expect to take anywhere from a week to 3 weeks.  When the freezing rain did end the snow began, which added even more weight to our lines, and the timber.  We are hoping for a several days of mild weather and low winds so the system will not worsen.  Crews and employees have turned our conference rooms into makeshift sleeping quarters, and others are preparing food for the crews in our community meeting rooms.  We have been able to keep power to our main headquarters mainly with our standby generator..........but at times have been without phone service.  At present, we have lost cell phone service from one of the major carriers.  Email seems to be working.

I have never seen anything like this......not only with the devastation to our electric distribution system..............but also the dangers of being outdoors near timber is unbelievable....several instances of limbs breaking and falling on or into moving vehicles.  And the loss of trees is incredible......it does sound like a war zone outside with the sounds of trees snapping coming from all directions....and we have been hearing that now for over 24 hours. 

This is certainly not my call but it appears to me that several of these hard hit areas of North Arkansas need assistance and quickly.....with shelters, checking on area residents who have been stranded with no power, cutting timber and opening roads, etc.