RISON, Ark. – With temperatures in the sixties, freezing conditions last week might seem like a distant memory to some, but thousands of Arkansans are still without power a week after losing it.
In Cleveland County, as of Wednesday afternoon, 40% of customers don’t have power, but the Cleveland School District reopened Monday with some limitations.
For example, in the Rison High School cafeteria all of its milk, over 1,000 cartons, spoiled and had to be thrown away. Superintendent Craig Dupuy said power was restored to the school Sunday afternoon just in time to save the rest of what they had refrigerated. Their frozen food is kept below zero and still had days left before needing to be tossed.
A warm meal and a cold drink have not been easy to come by the past week in Cleveland County. Last Thursday, 98% of homes and businesses had no power, and over half didn’t have electricity when Cleveland County Schools opened Monday.
“Even knowing we might not get 50% of our kids here, for those that could get here, we wanted to get them a safe place to come to with electricity, heat, and make sure we go them a good breakfast and a good lunch,” Dupuy said.
Before reopening, bus drivers needed to check their routes, and found some students’ homes were still inaccessible.
“Probably about 80 percent of our kids were here Monday,” Dupuy explained. “We excused absences for those that couldn’t get here due to obstructions or roadways.”
According to the superintendent, some teachers and bus drivers are among those returning from a day in the classroom to no electricity. In response, the dress code is temporarily relaxed so anyone can wear a hat on a bad hair day.
“I noticed yesterday a bunch of them had hats on,” Cleveland County resident Judy King said.
Judy King’s great-grandson is back in school after staying in her home because she had a generator this past week. Her grandchildren had a tree down on a truck in their driveway.
King’s neighborhood lost power last Tuesday. Her energy company C&L Electric Cooperative Corp. restored her last power around 9:00 P.M. this Tuesday.
“I promised them all a hug if I got it, so I owe them big time, each one of them,” King said.
As she begins her cleanup process, the school district said they hope each power line will be as in good a shape as their lunch lines soon.
“We’re not at 100%, but I would say we’re getting closer,” Dupuy stated.
To avoid crying over spoiled milk in the future, the Cleveland County School District is planning to purchase a cafeteria generator to run the cafeteria building during future outages