WALDRON McKayla Strozier and Amber Duncan figured the coronavirus pandemic was enough to deal with in the year and a half their hair salon, Tamed, had been open. Then Monday happened.
Thunderstorms on Monday brought more than 7 inches of rain to Scott County, which flooded all of downtown Waldron. The flood tore down Main Street, the main road through the West Arkansas town of around 3,300, and entered every business.
The flood trapped Strozier, Duncan and their boss in their homes while they worried if the equipment inside would be damaged.
"We were out for six weeks (for COVID-19)," Duncan said. "It was scary to know that if the flood had gotten into the salon, how much longer we would have been out of work."
Strozier and Duncan were just two residents whose lives were briefly thrown into a tailspin Monday morning. Arkansas Department of Emergency Management officials on Wednesday said the county reported at least 15 homes were damaged from the floods. While no injuries were reported from the weather event, city first responders on Monday morning conducted at least four vehicle rescues, said Waldron Mayor David Millard.
It wasn’t until Wednesday that County Judge James Forbes was able to conduct his damage assessment. And at that time, the Tyson Foods plant and Waldron Public Schools were closed.
Forbes has submitted an emergency declaration to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management for review following the flood, said Department spokesperson Melody Daniel.
‘Preparedness was out the window’
Wherever they were and however they make a living, almost everyone in downtown Waldron was caught off guard by the flood.
Millard said he got in his office on Monday morning and "couldn’t even see" a creek that runs nearby because the floodwaters were so high. He said his first reaction was to panic.
But that’s when first responders stepped in, he said.
"Our first response was to figure out what areas were in immediate danger. Law enforcement and local agencies assisted in that to make sure residents didn’t go down them. We had a few swift water rescues we had to perform during the flood over the past couple of days," said Waldron firefighter Keaton Davis. "We’ve had a lot of rain come in, and that hasn’t helped that situation."
First responders’ reactions may have been efficient, but water was still rising into businesses nonetheless. At Don’s EZ Pay Furniture and Electronics, four inches of floodwater filled the floor of the business.
EZ Pay Manager John Schlorff said "preparedness was out the window" when they woke up Monday morning.
"We got those (items), pulled them out, and we moved them to higher ground. Then we just stood right there and waited," Schlorff said.
The EZ Pay floor on Wednesday morning was empty and blocked off with a large tarp. The flooring had been stripped from the inside as well.
"We’re going to have some light repairs we’ll have to do — replace the carpet, fix some areas on the walls," Schlorff said.
Duncan said it was "gut-wrenching" to not be able to do anything about the flood at Tamed because she and others who work there were trapped in their homes.
"We have had flooding before in this area that maybe hasn’t been this extensive, but close to it," Davis said.
‘Everybody’s pulling together’
City and county officials — and business owners in downtown Waldron — aren’t wasting any time trying to help their city.
Daniel on Wednesday said Forbes applied for three kinds of protective measures — debris clearance and removal, emergency protective measures and roads and bridges — in his emergency declaration. Millard on Tuesday said he was reaching out to Waldron residents to see if there was any way city officials could help.
"We’re just trying to see if we can get people some help. A lot of people, especially if they don’t live in a flood zone, they don’t have flood insurance. They never thought they would need it here," Millard said.
In downtown, Strozier and Duncan have received text messages from their clients asking if they needed any help. The owner of Wildhorse Gun, Pawn & Auto has lent his property to Don’s EZ Pay to store their items while they recover from the flood.
"We pray for every single business around us that got water, and we’re willing to help with anything we need to," said Strozier.
Schlorff said he "can’t say enough" about the first responders in the community and their response to the floods.
Millard said he is waiting on updates on the disaster response. But in the meantime, he’s been impressed with the response.
"Everybody’s pulling together, and we’re getting it done," Millard said.