April 27, 2011 Edition

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Attitudes on the weather

John Bland
Publisher

We sympathize with Lawrence County residents who have had to leave their homes due to flooding, as well as those in other parts of Arkansas who lost loved ones, homes or both due to tornadoes or drowning.

Dalton Sullivan of the Pocahontas Star Herald reported late Tuesday afternoon that he expected U.S. Hwy. 67, between Pocahontas and Current River, to be closed due to flooding. He said the highway looked like a ribbon through waters, somewhat like the road from Miami to the Florida Keys.

Thankfully, Dalton said the recently rebuilt levee south of Black River in Pocahontas is holding well.

*********

The storms and flooding in Arkansas bring to mind how people react differently to storm warnings and threats of severe weather. Most of my adult life, I have tended to under-react to the warnings, but I know lots of people who are very weather conscious and very afraid of storms.

This week, I have been rethinking my casual attitude about severe weather. Having relatives living very close to areas hit by tornadoes and flooding, I realize that it would be wise to be mindful of severe weather and take some common sense safety steps when advised.

I haven't always been indifferent about weather. Around 1973, when Jonesboro was hit by its second tornado, my dad and I were headed to St. Bernards in Jonesboro late one May Friday night. My aunt, Milly Riddick, was having emergency surgery there. On the drive, we encountered almost constant lightning and thunder and a downpour of rain that made seeing the highway lines impossible.

Not until we hit an upside-down fiberglass bathtub on the Jonesboro bypass and saw snarled road signs did we realize something major had happened. Then, our attempts to exit onto side roads into Jonesboro were futile due to downed trees and limbs.

We finally backtracked and entered Jonesboro from old Hwy. 63 and got to St. Bernards by dodging downed power lines, limbs and flooded streets. By then my aunt was being wheeled out of surgery and to her room with only emergency lighting available.

After that night, my heart would race when out in a vehicle during a downpour of rain. Therefore, I am sensitive to the fears and overreaction of others.

*********

Two recent experiences have made me keenly interested in this Friday's royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. We recently watched the movie, "The King's Speech," winner of this year's Best Picture and starring Colin Firth, who won the Oscar for Best Actor. This true story of King George VI and his speech impediment was quite interesting. Although I never stuttered, it is easy to relate to his fear of public speaking. As most people know, he was the father of Queen Elizabeth II and the great-grandfather of Prince William.

The second experience has been an interview and e-mails with former Lawrence Countian Wanda Hardin Fincher, who is in England this week to provide radio commentary on the wedding for the BBC. At age 67, Wanda leads a full and interesting life. She is providing the middle-America perspective on the royal wedding.

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