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TUCKER -- About a half-dozen people sat Thursday in the main hall of the Wright-Pastoria Volunteer Fire Department, talking quietly.

The Fire Department has been turned into a shelter for Jefferson County residents who have been displaced by flooding along the Arkansas River in the Wright community.

Sarah Oliger sat in the kitchen area talking with two other volunteers, Mary Morgan and Betty McCall. All three live in the tight-knit community nestled along the river on either side of the Plum Bayou Levee.

All three also live on the dry side of the levee. Otherwise, they would be the ones in need of shelter.

"We're praying the levee holds," McCall said. "It's in bad shape."

All around the building, campers and tents were set up for people who are staying on the property because their homes have been flooded.

[STORY: Levee failing, time to leave, residents told]

"Yeah, pretty much everything inside the levee is flooded," Oliger said.

"We've got one home over on Ray Dean Road that doesn't have water in it," McCall said.

"Not the other day," Oliger replied. "It may now."

In the dayroom, a large, open space next to the kitchen with three long tables lined up and chairs sitting against the wall, Marjorie Ice and her daughter, Debbie James, talked with Tim Sartin and Connie Carty. All four live inside the levee.

The warnings came early, Sartin said, but before the water began rising it was hard to believe how bad it would get.

"We seen on the TV it was coming, but we were about 15 feet high," he said. "It's all up in there now."

"We started evacuating my mother's house about five days before," James said. "No, actually, it was my sister's. We didn't even touch hers because we didn't think it would get that high."

Ice said her house emerged unscathed through three previous floods.

"Now it's 4 to 5 feet into it," she said.

Ice said she was in Illinois, at the urging of her husband, visiting her brother when the floodwaters arrived.

"He kept saying, 'Go on, Debbie. It's not going to get that bad here,'" Ice said. "So I was able to see it on TV."

Ice's home flooded in 1990, which persuaded her to move to a higher spot inside the levee. She said seeing the devastation on television didn't prepare her for when she returned home.

[GALLERY: Flooding around Lake Conway]

"To drive up to the top of the levee and see we only have what, one, two, three, maybe four houses inside the levee that haven't taken on water?" she said. "It's just the idea, to know that so many of our people have lost their homes.

"I don't know what they're going to do."

Looting also has been a problem.

"There's a lot of thieving going on," James said. "People taking boats, taking whatever they see. It's bad."

"We drove our boat over to our house the other day," Sartin said. "On the way we passed two or three houses that had the doors busted open."

"We're staying over at the pavilion," James said. "There's two gentlemen, they sit out there all night just watching."

Asked if they would stay after the flooding, all four nodded their heads.

[STORY: Jefferson County crosses fingers]

"I'll probably let the house go and get a camper trailer, but I'll keep the property and stay here," Ice said. "It's just my husband and I. This is our town. I've been here 30 years. I came here for a visit and never left. That's how much I love this community."

Ice said the community of mostly working-class people is tight-knit and residents watch out for one another.

"The community, during times like this, everybody just sticks together, pulling each other out," she said. "We've got men who risk themselves with their boats pulling people out."

"Sandbagging," James said with a laugh. "That's all we've been doing for days is sandbagging."

[PHOTOS: Water reaches LR apartment complex]

That wasn't enough this time.

"We knew it was going to be bad," Ice said. "They said it was going to be worse than 1990, but nobody thought it was going to be this bad."

A Section on 06/07/2019

Print Headline: Talk inside shelter is about loss, days ahead

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