Wendy and Timothy Shue of Wright got out of their home just as rushing floodwater from the Arkansas River penetrated their retainer wall.
Wendy Shue said they made a split-second decision.
“When it came up over the wall, it was over,” she said, crying. “I knew I had to get out.”
On June 3, the Shues packed up what they could and drove to the Wright-Pastoria Fire Department. The couple and other flood victims have made the shelter their temporary home until they figure out what’s next.
“I’m not opposed to moving on, but it would be sad to give up everything that you’ve known for so long,” Wendy Shue said. “This is home. Now, after all this, you have to think of what is home? Do you even have a home?”
Living in Wright for 16 years, Wendy Shue said she’s seen flooding before, but nothing this catastrophic. Back in 2015 and 2016, the area experienced major flooding, although it was several feet less than what’s happening now.
“You wait it out and you think ‘maybe it’s not going to be as bad as they think, maybe they’re wrong, maybe it’s just a precaution they’re telling you this,’” Wendy Shue said, wiping away tears.
"But when that water starts coming up and that fast and with that much current coming into your yard, you know it’s time to go. You either go then or you don’t go at all.”
Despite reports, Wendy Shue didn’t think her home would be impacted.
During the 2016 flood, she said the water didn’t affect her residence at all. Now, with no flood insurance, she’s concerned about what will be left when the water recedes and she’s able to return.
“At this point, you don’t know what to think,” she said. “You just try to be positive about what you find when you go back. Is there going to be anything left? Is there anything that can be salvaged? Or do you have to move on? You just don’t know until you get there.”
One thing she’s hoping to find when she returns home are the rose bushes she planted in memory of her mother.
“My mom passed away in November, and I had some rose bushes that I dug up and planted,” she said. “After I got them planted and they started blooming, it’s like it was so peaceful back there on the patio, and then the flood came. I don’t even know if they’ll be there. I don’t know if I’m going to lose that.”
Similar to Wendy, Timothy Shue never imagined waters would rise so high. The couple said they’ve seen homes washed away with the currents, leaving homeowners heartbroken.
“It’s devastating,” Timothy Shue said. “I’ve been deployed five different times in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this still made me sick to my stomach just seeing everything that everybody lost. It’s a lot of people that lost everything. I don’t think anybody ever expected it to be this bad.”
According to shelter manager Sarah Oliger, the number of flood victims to visit the shelter has increased as the flood has worsened. Oliger didn’t have an exact number of victims who have visited the shelter, but she did say that at least four families are sleeping there. She also said that since it opened on May 26, donations have come in from everywhere.
“We had churches in Pine Bluff and individuals in Pine Bluff, the churches and people in England have just poured in here with food and paper goods,” she said. “One family in England even bought us a side-by-side. It’s just really overwhelming.”
On Tuesday, a group from Washington, D.C., brought a mobile shower to the fire department. The facility only has one shower for flood victims to share. But with the new addition, three showers will now be available to use.
“You don’t realize what a shower means until you don’t have one,” Wendy Shue said. “And these people came all the way down here and set it up for us. It just makes you know there are good people left. It’s overwhelming.”
Even though she’s unsure of what’s to come in the next few weeks, Wendy Shue boasts of optimism for her and other flood victims across the state.
“I know God whatever He takes away, He’ll bring back even better,” she said smiling.