Leader Blues

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

FROM THE PUBLISHER > >Tornado gets too close for comfort

Sen. Bobby Glover was in his car early Friday afternoon when a storm roared into Carlisle.

He was just a couple of blocks away from the old railroad depot on Main Street, where he has his insurance office, and he was worried about his daughter Robin and was desperate to find her.

“It lasted about 15 to 20 seconds,” Glover recalled Sunday. “I’m thankful to the good Lord I’m still here.”

The twister continued behind him, hitting several homes in the northeast part of town. It had plowed through Hwy. 70, damaging several homes and businesses there.

The Little Rock TV stations had warned area residents that the tornado was in their path, and many went to the safest spots they could find in their homes. Others, like Glover, had hoped they could ride out the storm.

“It’s amazing how quiet it gets afterward,” Glover said.

The good news was that his daughter and her mother were safe in the basement of the First Methodist Church, where many of the town’s residents had taken shelter.

In front of him, he could now see his office was badly hit, and farther down the street, the back of the fire station was ripped off.

But across the street, none of the old downtown buildings were hit.

When the tornado approached downtown, Carlisle Mayor Ray Glover, the senator’s cousin, was looking out the window where the municipal offices are located in a couple of storefronts on Main Street.

“If it had moved across the street, it would have wiped out downtown,” the mayor said Sunday afternoon.

He was still getting calls on his cell phone from residents who needed help clearing their homes and yards.

Crews were taking tree limbs from people’s yards to the outskirts of town, where they were burned in a pile of other debris.

You could see the smoke from I-40 a couple of miles away.

The mayor said Jacksonville and Stuttgart were sending clamp trucks that are used for picking up yard waste, which should help with the cleanup.

Glover was grateful for all the help the town was getting from its neighbors: The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department let Carlisle use a new mobile command center. The South Bend Volunteer Fire Department also helped out after Carlisle’s fire station was hit.

Immanuel Baptist Church of Carlisle and Lonoke Presbyterian Church fed people all weekend along with volunteers from St. Rose Catholic in Carlisle.

“We’re not doing anything Carlisle wouldn’t do for us,” said Alex Fletcher, a Lonoke church member. The Lonoke church sends members all over the state during a disaster. They’re usually there before FEMA arrives and stay long after FEMA is gone.

Glover was grateful no one was injured and grateful also that Gov. Mike Beebe flew in on Monday to view the damage.

Beebe’s old legislative colleague, Sen. Glover, was there to greet him. Glover has been mayor, state representative and state senator for 30 years – his cousin has been mayor for just over a year — and the veteran politician can’t run again because he’s term-limited, but the veteran politician was pressing Beebe to line up funds to repair the damage.

The old depot stands where Glover used to take the Rock Island line to Little Rock on class trips.

The tracks are covered up and no train stops there anymore, but if you look around, Carlisle is not much different than it was 60 years ago, except for the tornado damage. People haven’t changed much either. They’re still down home. It may take a while to rebuild some of the worst-hit homes and businesses, but the town will be fixed up before the year’s over.