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The Rainless Flood

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  • Kevin Thomas Clark
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Oklahoma rains swamp Arkansas homes as the Army Corps of Engineers opens Keystone Dam and releases large amounts of water into the Arkansas River.

Part I – May 30-June 2, 2019

Every day since Thursday, May 30, I’ve been covering two families – the Hargetts and the Johnsons – in the Treasure Hills subdivision between Conway and Greenbrier, Arkansas.

The Hargett and Johnson Homes while still largely dry

The Hargett (left) and Johnson (right) homes, still largely dry

Both homes had walls of sandbags that were surrounded by mostly dry land when I first met them.

The Hargetts

The next day, it was very different. Bryan and Trina Hargett’s home was surrounded by water from the Cadron Creek. Their sandbagged wall wasn’t high enough. The water was rising fast. Newly married, they had moved into the home just two weeks ago.

Trina Hargett looks at the couple’s newly arrived wedding portrait.

Trina Hargett looks at the couple’s newly arrived wedding portrait.

The Hargetts hadn’t even unpacked everything yet, much less had time to meet their new neighbors. A call went out to save their home. Friends and family showed up, as did some of their new neighbors they had yet to meet.  It was a nip and tuck day: trailer after trailer and friend after stranger showed up. Together, they built the Hargett’s wall up from around four-feet-tall to nearly six-feet-tall in places.

Volunteers work to raise the height of the sandbag wall surrounding the Hargett home.

For now, the wall is holding.

The Johnsons

From the breezeway of the Hargett home, you can see the home of Paul and Linda Johnson.

Paul and Linda Johnson

Long married and in the early part of retirement, the Johnsons – with help from the Beaverfork Volunteer Fire Department and friends and family – built a substantial wall to keep the water away.

The Johnson’s home, surrounded by flood waters

They built it early, and they built it high. Paul actually felt a little guilty.  Maybe, he thought, he used too many sandbags … sandbags that could have been put to better use for another family. But, as the water rose, any sense of guilt Paul may have felt disappeared.

Aerial of the Johnson’s home, surrounded by flood waters

The wall was just high enough.  They are still dry.

Treasure Hills

Several of their neighbors aren’t so lucky. Bryan and Trina’s neighbor Bill Holmes, the brother of former AETN producer Jim Holmes, lost his home to the water. Other homes are underwater, too.

This story is no longer just mine. Yesterday, Fox National did a live shot with the Hargetts and, of course, all the local media have found it, too.

National news outlets briefly cover the Treasure Hills Subdivision's rising flood waters.

They came out and did their quick hit and moved on. For AETN’s coverage, I’d like to invest more and dig deeper.

This isn’t a story that will end for the people impacted when the river crests or when the floodwaters recede. From removing sandbags to rebuilding, this is the beginning of a long, involved process. We want to be there from the beginning to the end.

We have hope for Treasure Hills. I’m looking forward to a day in the near future where Bryan and Trina are officially introduced to their neighbors and the entire subdivision gets together. A day when the whole community can celebrate a couple of victories, mourn some loses and come out stronger in the end.

AETN producer Kevin Thomas Clark – a Blytheville native – will provide ongoing coverage of the historic 2019 Arkansas River flood in the Conway area through blogs and a digital-first video series. Watch for updates in coming weeks on the AETN Engage blog and AETN social media outlets.