POCAHONTAS, Ark. (KTHV) -- After a morning of chaos, residents of Pocahontas now wait to see what the water that has smothered their city will reveal.
“They’re saying now, the water’s starting to recede a little bit,” Chris Hart mentioned Wednesday afternoon. “So it’s just a waiting game.”
Hart and his family were among the dozens of people who spent part of the day at the Red Cross emergency shelter in Pocahontas. His mother-in-law’s house flooded Wednesday morning, so he visited with her in the bedroom that had been set up for her.
“She’s doing good,” he said. “She’s been stressed out, but they only gave them, I think she said, an hour to get their stuff out, so all she had time to get was clothes.”
A levee just east of Pocahontas failed in nine places, allowing water to rush out of the swollen Black River. Local officials said it is the worst flooding they have ever seen, even beyond the historic flood of 2011.
“That side of the river has been doing nothing but thriving since the 2011 (flood),” said Rod Melton, who drove around the city Wednesday to observe the flooding. “Now, it’s just, headstrong. You know, you gotta have faith and confidence, and know that you’ll get through this.”
Melton said he was fishing along the Black River when it first started to rise last week. He said he had to call his wife to pick him up because he feared he would be stranded, given how quickly the water level changed.
“Five hours, I sat there,” he recalled, “but there river come up about a foot, and (kept) pushing me back.”
The levee breach changed the timing and the impact of the floods. Instead of waiting for the Black River to crest, which meteorologists expected would take place Thursday, it had already fallen two feet, and the latest projections show it continuing to drain over the next several days. So people in Pocahontas changed their reactions and attitudes just as quickly.
“Well, it’s went from panic to everybody pitching in,” Hart mentioned. “I seen up front, at the desk, they’ve got more names than they know what to do with, people wanting to volunteer.”
Hart added that rebuilding will be the toughest part of the process. Pocahontas brought itself back to life six years ago with lots of commercial and residential development. No matter what people find when the water recedes, they plan to get to work to make it all look like new once again.
“Everybody helping everybody. That’s what we do here,” Hart stated. “We’re all neighbors, we all help.”
“Can’t help it, it’s nature,” Melton reasoned. “It’s God’s intent and will. You know, all we can do is adapt and overcome.”
According to local officials, more than 50 homes have been destroyed and another 100 homes and businesses have been damaged. The 87th Troop Command of the Arkansas National Guard rescued 17 people from the Walmart parking lot Wednesday afternoon after floodwaters trapped them there.