January 6, 2010 Edition

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Ice storms tops
2009 TD stories

Tree branches, heavy from ice accumulated during January's ice storm, fell across this truck parked at a residence on Northwest Fifth Street in Walnut Ridge.
TD Photo ~ Anna Bland

The staff of The Times Dispatch has selected the top 10 stories of 2009 with the January ice storm and its aftermath receiving top honors.

The ice began to fall on Monday, Jan. 26, and power outages began the next day. In the end the entire county lost power, with many waiting weeks for it to be restored.

Utility poles and trees were snapped causing road blockages, as well as damage to vehicles and structures. Shelters were established throughout the county to provide a place to sleep and warm meals to residents.

Power was restored in downtown Walnut Ridge within a week, but The TD building was one of the last to be restored, so the Feb. 4 issue was completed at First National Bank. A few of the photos that were not used in that issue are included in this week's paper.

Other stories making the top 10 list include:

2. The Children's Shelter opens.

A long-term project was realized in the opening of The Children's Shelter in Walnut Ridge on June 1. The shelter quickly became full to capacity serving children from Lawrence County and other counties throughout the state.

The first year brought some challenges, including a false allegation, as well as some policy restructuring. The facility continues to fulfill its purpose, though, as it serves as a temporary shelter for children who are taken from their homes until suitable placement can be found.

3. Traffic accidents claim lives.

Lawrence County suffered tremendous losses in vehicle accidents this year with a total of 10 fatalities, including the death of Walnut Ridge High School senior Chelsey Linebaugh and Hillcrest High School senior Linda Skaggs just days apart in February.

The highways also claimed the lives of Calvin Richey, 52, of Lynn; Lindsay Rogers, 18, of Walnut Ridge; Makenzie Denham, five, of Hoxie; Marty Wayne Wells, 46, of Ravenden; Nick Brown, 21, of Hoxie; Jerry Lee Hutton, 40, of Hoxie; Carl E. Mitchell, 28, of Imboden; and Clifton Britton, 71, of Walnut Ridge.

4. Airport/golf course dispute continues.

On June 1, Circuit Court Judge Harold Erwin granted a motion by the Walnut Ridge Airport Commission and the City of Walnut Ridge for summary judgment in the ongoing lawsuit between the two entities and the Walnut Ridge Golf Club. The judgment stated that the leases were terminated and the property leased by the club should be returned to the city in its pre-lease condition.

In October, the golf club's attorney, C.W. Knauts, filed an appeal with the Arkansas Court of Appeals asking that Erwin's decision be overturned. If the court overturns Erwin's granting of summary judgment, the case will be heard in court.

5. The TD turns 100.

The Times Dispatch marked its 100th year of publication in 2009. In addition to an open house in August, The TD staff put out a special section marking the milestone as a surprise for the Bland family, owners of the newspaper.

6. Farmers have hard year.

September, October and November rains hampered Lawrence County farmers' harvest efforts, which were further complicated by cooler temperatures that prevented crops from maturing properly.

The farmers also had issues with rain and wet fields while trying to put their crops in the field in the spring.

7. H1N1 affects LawCo.

The H1N1 virus made news throughout the country this year, and Lawrence County was no exception. Among the first confirmed cases of the virus in Arkansas was a student at Walnut Ridge Elementary School. Mass flu clinics were also held in the county to vaccinate against both swine flu and the seasonal flu. Fortunately, the virus did not reach epidemic stages as feared, and no deaths were caused locally.

8. Body found at Clover Bend.

A Hoxie man was arrested after the body of Ronald Cathey, 51, of Pocahontas, was found in the Black River near Clover Bend. Cathey's daughter's boyfriend, Greg Anthony Smith, 19, of Hoxie, was charged with murder in connection with the incident. He is scheduled to go to trial in February.

9. Save-A-Lot opens in Hoxie.

After delays due to the ice storm, the new Save-A-Lot in Hoxie opened in May. Owned by Wayne Black and Andy Allen, the new store was much-anticipated and celebrated with a grand opening in June.

10. Police seize drugs at airport.

Walnut Ridge and Hoxie police officers seized approximately 418 pounds of marijuana from an aircraft that landed at the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport in July. A tip from Homeland Security regarding the aircraft and its crew's suspicious behavior when leaving an Arizona airport led to the discovery and subsequent arrest of two Harrisburg, Pa., men.

Several other stories finished close to the top 10 including: Hollyann Crum receiving third-runner up honors at Miss Arkansas; Lawrence County experiencing the wettest known year, including seven inches during the Christmas holiday; the dedication of the new Manley Chapel at Williams Baptist College; the sale of the spec building to Universal Assets Management; and the funding of the new archives facility to be constructed at the Powhatan Historic State Park.

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