Altheimer struggled with power outages that also disrupted the water supply Wednesday after storms felled five trees Tuesday night on Main Street.
By 6 p.m. power had been restored, according to Entergy’s website. Water services were also back on, but the town will be under a boil order until further notice from the Arkansas Department of Health.
Mayor Donald Robinson said that lightning and strong winds toppled the trees and knocked out power lines along about a one-and-a half-block radius near Front Street. The outages began at about 9 p.m. Tuesday.
“It has affected the entire city,” Robinson said. “On both sides of the track, we have been without lights and water because the [water] plant has no electricity.”
Entergy crews arrived Tuesday night, but conditions were still dangerous, said journeyman lineman Bunrith Heng.
“We put off everything until this morning because of the rain,” Heng said., adding that the crews returned at about 7 a.m. Wednesday.
During the morning hours, two fallen power poles were replaced and West Tree Service cut down a large tree that had fallen on power lines behind the car wash. Some lines dangled in the air from the poles, others landed in trees or on the ground. Entergy crews continued sectionalizing the damage.
After a noon lunch break, three Entergy crews returned to get power lines off the ground.
Residents streamed in and out of the post office even though the building was hot and lit only by light coming in from the windows. Randy Sowells of Elm Plantation said he had been using bottled water since Tuesday night.
“We can last for awhile, at least until 6 p.m., if this goes on that long,” Sowells said.
“We are just dealing with what we have to deal with to get through it,” said resident Shenola Allison. “It’s uncontrollable, no fault of the city. I knew it wasn’t the city’s fault because they generally let us know when they are turning off the water.”
Looking on the brighter side, Allison said it’s a good thing the fallen tree will no longer a problem.
“It’s just not good to have a big tree like that near power lines. Now it’s gone,” Allison said.
With the streets mostly bare of people and traffic Wednesday afternoon, a few curious citizens came out to talk to the mayor as he walked the community checking on residents. Gregory McGowen, 10, rode his bike across the track to find out what happened.
“We had to use candles since last night (Tuesday),” said McGowen, who resides on the south side of the tracks. “Now we have lights. The mayor told me the tree did it.”
Water Superintendent Johnny Felps was on the scene, helping to secure the area and working with Entergy to get a temporary generator, provided by the county, hooked up at the water plant.
“It will give everyone in town enough water pressure until everything is working again,” Felps said, adding that he is also working to get a permanent generator installed to alleviate problems like this in the future.
At city hall, citizens continued to call and ask questions.
“They are upset at first,” said secretary Jeanetta McClinton. “But after we explain the situation and let them know the problem is caused by fallen power lines, they calm down. Most people understand.”
“It just goes to show you how much we don’t appreciate something until we don’t have it,” said McClinton’s co-worker, Zola Hudson.
City hall reported that 10 pallets of water had been brought in by the food bank to distribute to residents.
According to the Entergy website, 135 customers in the Altheimer area were without power at about noon Wednesday. In the southern part of the county, the Entergy website listed 83 customers without power in the Faith area because of a downed tree. And in Pine Bluff, 83 customers were listed as not having power in the area of 13th Avenue, Juniper Street, Larch Street and Myrtle Street.
By 6 p.m., the number of outages reported on the Entergy website for the whole county was down to two.