Ozarks Community Helps with Tornado Damage Clean-up -- Volunteers Still Needed

Release Date: 6/3/2011

Clarksville, Ark. --- The tornados that struck Franklin and Johnson Counties on May 25 left a trail of destruction in their wake. In the hours and days that followed, members of the Ozarks campus community have stepped forward to offer their help.

Ozarks Outdoors went on Friday to the town of Denning, south of Altus, which was destroyed just after midnight by one storm. That tornado has been rated EF4 with maximum winds of 170 mph.

“Emergency responders tell us help is needed in the short and long term,” Director of Outdoor Experiences Jamie Lewis Hedges posted in a short message. “It's too easy to return to our lives and forget people are still struggling. Ozarks Outdoors is committed to contributing our help over the long haul.”

Lauren Ray, a student coordinator for Ozarks Outdoors, agreed. “Yesterday, three of us went out to Denning, which was completely devastated. Denning is a really small town, population 100-200, and less than a mile wide, but the tornado was supposedly a mile and a half wide. Everything’s damaged in one way or another. Pretty much any building with a tree nearby got damages. Debris is everywhere. We spent the day helping one couple whose property was hit. A huge 150-ft. oak tree had fallen on their house and split it right down the middle. Fortunately nobody was home when it happened, but the damage out there is crazy. We cut up trees with chainsaws and hauled the pieces to the curb so they can be picked up.”

“We’re planning to go out every Tuesday until our help isn’t needed anymore,” she added. “We’re going where need is greatest, and right now in looks like Denning and Harmony are the places with the greatest need.”

Ozarks’ maintenance department did its part as well. According to Physical Plant Maintenance Manager Mike Qualls, he and several other members of Ozarks’ maintenance and grounds crew – John Hodge, Greg Stone, and Jason Dicamillo – distributed a truckload of bottled water and garbage bags over a wide area around hard-hit Harmony, north of Clarksville. “It was a heck of a mess out there,” he said. “A lot of people have well water out there, so without power they couldn’t get water at all.”

The following day they returned to the Harmony area to help clear fallen trees from a residence nearby.

Because of widespread power outages, 25 contractors from River Valley Electric were housed on campus in King Hall. Ozarks’ Student Life Office arranged linens for them, snack bags, and did their laundry during their stay.

Ozarks Outdoors will continue to send out volunteer crews to help with clean-up on Tuesday “until their help is no longer needed,” as Lauren Ray put it. She said they badly need more volunteers, and that anyone interested can email outdoors@ozarks.edu or call (479) 979-1322.

On Saturday, June 4, and Sunday June 5 volunteers are still needed for a clean-up day in Denning.  The clean-up will start at 8:00 am and will continue throughout the day.  Volunteers need to wear sturdy shoes, and should bring gloves if possible.  Food will be provided for volunteers.

 If you'd like more information about the Denning clean-up days, call  479-647-2753 or 479-213-1906.