Part II – June 2-3, 2019
At this point, the weekend is a blur. It has been a run of long days for the two families I’ve been covering in the Treasure Hills subdivision between Conway and Greenbrier, Arkansas. They’ve been hot days, too, which makes the already difficult work even more surreal.
Now, both families are battling the rising flood waters from the nearby Cadron Creek, and both homes are completely surrounded.
The brown and muddy water is waist-deep even on the best approach to Bryan and Trina Hargett’s house. By now, I’ve learned the safest path, the path that keeps the camera gear slung around my neck dry. The Hargetts have built stairs out of sandbags to ease the transition out of the dammed water onto what they are now calling Hargett Island.
Bryan and Trina look toward their home, now dubbed Hargett Island.
A Liquid Enemy
The water is insidious. It’s both tiny and huge: small enough to seep through microscopic cracks but strong enough to push over a ton of sandbags. The incessant, low drone of the sump pump motors working to keep Hargett Island dry makes recording audio difficult. Everything about covering this is difficult – how much more difficult must it be living it? And, yet, both of these families treat me as a guest. They ask me if they can do anything for me; they try to feed me and remind me to hydrate. This is one of the most difficult parts of being a filmmaker … it’s truly all I can do to not put down my camera and start helping.
A Near Miss
Saturday was the day they almost lost it. When I arrived Sunday afternoon, Trina told me that Bryan was asleep. Finally.
Still, the pressure of the water pushing against the sandbag wall is a constant threat. More sandbags were still showing up, and volunteers were reinforcing the wall. The faces were familiar, and the work was hurried. The biggest threat to Hargett Island was at the rear of the home, through the breezeway. That is where the wall had been raised to about 6-feet-tall on Friday, and that is where I saw Bryan. He was not actually asleep, after all, but in more of a daze: sleep-working. When we passed each other, I smiled and greeted him. He never even saw me.
The Johnsons – Standing Watch
Over at Paul and Linda Johnson’s place, neighbors Kyle and Patty Rice were manning the pumps and watching the wall. Paul had fallen ill. It’s been a tough year for him so far: heart surgery, kidney stones and, now, this.
The wall was in good shape, and the house was still dry. Later, though, there were rumors of a breach. I hurried over but was 15 minutes too late to cover it. The guys manning the wall literally used their bodies to plug the breach as a call for help went out on social media. Within 10 minutes, nearly a dozen bodies showed up and reinforced the wall.
By the time I got there, the only evidence of the breach was mud splattered on the garage wall.
Treasure Hills Oases
The Rice home is on higher ground, and it is one of a couple of homes in the neighborhood that has become an oasis. Their kitchen is full of food: ribs and BBQ brought in by concerned neighbors. The Johnson’s upright piano is stowed in their living room.
Meanwhile, the Plouch home, across the road from Bryan and Trina’s place, serves as the other escape. Jaki Plouch had set up a picnic of sorts, and her side yard is where Libby – Bryan and Trina Hargett’s little dog – is able to do her business and find some sense of normalcy.
There’s a long road ahead, and the last few days have been solid reminders that nothing is guaranteed. One thing, however, is undeniable: the neighbors, friends and volunteers who have joined this fight are astounding. It’s unbelievable but incredibly encouraging to see what this community is accomplishing through generosity and sheer determination.
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.