Waiting for Electricity Prolongs Living with Daily Challenges

GREENE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) -- As thousands of homes across the Region 8 viewing area have electricity restored, those people still without are becoming anxious.

On Greene County Road 507, some homes on the northern side are powered up again; however, homes on the southern side could be out of power for 2-5 weeks. Those residents without power are getting more frustrated each day.

"It's just mass destruction. Pole after pole is on the ground right now," said Bobby Clifft.

Bobby Clifft has been out of power since the ice storm hit two weeks ago. He was out Sunday removing two trees from his front yard. The limbs from those trees have damaged the weather head to his home on two occasions. The ice storm, Clifft said, was the last time. "I'm removing trees to where it don't happen again."

Clifft, who lives at 504 Greene County Road 507, said living without electricity has been an unforgettable experience. He said he's kept part of his home warm with a wood burning stove, which has also allowed him to cook. He doesn't own a generator, so the food in his refrigerator has spoiled.

"Everything is Flintstone. It's going back 50 years. You go to wash your hands. You warm it up on the stove and wash your hands in the yard," said Clifft.

Clifft Sunday used a Bobcat to dig around a pine tree before pushing it over in his front yard. He took a chainsaw to the tree, which can now be used for firewood.

"Next time I'll be more prepared. I have central heat and air. Fortunately we had wood, so we've been able to cook, at least we got a hot meal," said Clifft. "Wife is not happy. Unfortunately it raises frustrations, but you just have to deal with it. Take a deep breath and go on."

Clifft and his neighbor, Wendell Gadberry, both live on the southern section of Greene County Road 507, the side without power.

"Right here, less than an eighth of a mile. Every night I drive up and down the road wishing, you know, just stay out of there way and let them go. That's the best you can do," said Clifft.

"Just about 100 yards right in front of my house My wife come running in the other night. She said oh, we got power. I said no. I seen that and didn't have the heart to tell her because they had worked on 135 and they had power, and the power had come on, and you could see the yard light and everything. It's frustrating to look across and see it when you don't have it but you just have to have faith and hope that they're coming to you next," said Gadberry.

Gadberry and his wife have been using a fish cooker on the carport to cook food. He's also been using a generator to keep the deep freezer running and provide them with warm water to bath in.

He said he understands the monumental task facing utility crews.

"They can't get everybody back on at once. It took years for this country to get electricity. They cant supply it back to us in a matter of days," said Gadberry.

Gadberry said the January ice storm was much different from one in 1957, when he was just 16 years old.

"In a rural area, we was out 28 days then, so I've learned from that one. I learned to tell them about this one, just be patient, it'll come back on," said Gadberry.

"I had some work done on my weather head and I called and they said 2-5 weeks but I'm optimistic because I've seen trucks running around here today so I think in a few days we're going to have power. I hope we do," said Gadberry.

Utility crews from Louisiana Sunday worked to restore power to residents along Greene County Road 507. "Craighead can power them up and put juice to them when they get all the poles up and they can't turn on the electricity until they get the brush or trees out of the wires," said Roy Hurd of Poor Boys.

Utility crews in Region 8 said the damage from the ice storm is just as devastating as the damage Hurricane Katrina brought New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

"Once we get through and if there is no downed poles, there's a utility company coming right behind us setting poles and stringing wire, so once we get here, it won't be long now," said Hurd.

Update from Craighead Electric Cooperative

Officials with Craighead Electric said Sunday that utility crews made more progress Saturday. According to a statement, more than 500 customers have had power restored thanks to the work of nearly 750 line workers.

Brian Duncan, President and CEO of Craighead Electric, said he needs the help of the general public to keep workers of other cooperatives safe.

"We know that people are curious, but we ask that motorists be aware of crews working along roads and highways as they are working in a dangerous area under very hazardous conditions. Please give them plenty of room to work."

If you need to report a downed power line or tree that is touching a nearby power line, call Craighead Electric at 1-888-771-7772. Officials urge people to stay away from such power lines because they may still be energized.