POCAHONTAS, Ark. – Randolph County Judge David Jansen did not hesitate to call the 2017 Flood the worst natural disaster he has ever seen on Thursday.
The county judge, who has yet to see his own home since flood waters began to rise, was hopeful he would get to go back home later Thursday. He spoke to NEA Report around 10:30 a.m. to provide the latest updates – including a startling 13 water rescues which were completed in the county for the day Wednesday.
Jansen said through the entire situation, his number one goal has been achieved: no loss of life.
The waters were going down Thursday morning in the county and some buildings, like the health department in east Pocahontas, went from seeing inches of water to being drained. Because of the water damage to the building, a temporary health department will be set up at the old Pocahontas Federal building in downtown Pocahontas. Jansen said they hope to have it open by Monday as they hook up IT and hardware.
The hope in Randolph County was that Highway 67 North would reopen Thursday, Jansen said. It wasn’t a certainty but this would allow Jansen to go home, he said with excitement in his voice.
Meanwhile, Highway 67 South is still a ways from reopening, Jansen said.
“It’s getting better but this is a long-term recovery.” – Jansen
The community in east Pocahontas which has seen the worst of the flooding in this disaster has been the Robil Addition. It was having water pumped out Thursday, Jansen said.
A dusk-to-dawn curfew is still in effect in east Pocahontas.
The worry of the county judge was slowly shifting to recovery mode Thursday. As some business owners were being let back into their stores to see what type of work would need to be done, Jansen said he hoped the desire to help the community remained as strong as it is, now. He said this will be a long-term effort and help won’t just be needed for days – but for weeks and months.
“We’ve had ice storms that were bad and they were nowhere near this,” Jansen said. “Ice storms are an inconvenience. Floods take livelihoods.”
56 were staying in shelters in Pocahontas as of Thursday morning, Jansen said, displaced from their homes and unsure of what the future holds. He added the old nursing home that is currently functioning as a shelter was in good condition and the people there were managing very well.
Jansen expressed his gratitude to the help he has received from state agencies like Arkansas Game & Fish, Arkansas State Police and a litany of others. He said the help has been crucial. But it is the partnership Jansen seems to have formed with Pocahontas Mayor Kary Story which seems to have been a driving force in the preparation and efforts to keep Randolph County above water.
“He props me up and I prop him up,” Jansen said. “We kind of push each other to do better. I’m here for him and he’s here for me.”
Featured photo from Jason Cissell, licensed drone operator
Exclusive footage shows a bubbling bomb – a leaking propane tank is just one of many problems the rising flood waters have casued.