Ark. City Watches River Waters' Slow Rise

Originally published on May 14, 2011 10:00 am
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Desha County Judge Mark McElroy joins us from his office in Arkansas City. Your Honor, thanks very much for being with us.

MARK MCELROY: Thank you for calling.

SIMON: Judge McElroy, are people worried, or is this just part of life along the Mississippi?

MCELROY: We live every day by the river, you know. We watch it and, you know, it just flows by, and we - I kind of take it for granted. But now people are really living in fear. I had a call from my sister that was shopping in Pine Bluff, some 65 miles away...

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

MCELROY: So, you know, rumors are a terrible thing when people are living in fear.

SIMON: Yeah. Anyone leaving town?

MCELROY: So, the fear is real, and the people are panicking left and right. And I'm trying to keep calm. And I've had a meeting, Scott, with them at - from town to town, you know, trying to separate fact from fiction and telling them look, the river - the levy is extremely high, but we're monitoring the bowls and the seepage and, you know, there's no reason to panic, although I am standing with a lifejacket on and flippers and goggles. So that's the calming effect I have on them, I guess.

SIMON: And is it difficult for people who don't live along the flood zone to understand what it's like to have to contemplate evacuating?

MCELROY: And until you see the Mississippi River, it's almost like that movie where they say, you call that a knife? This is a knife, you know. We see people in the west that's called a river a river, but the Mighty Mississippi is just what they say it is. It is mighty at this point.

SIMON: Mm-hmm. I have to ask a question on - that we get from people all across the country at the time of natural disasters like this. Why do so many people then live in an area that's on lower ground than a river knowing that this is always a possibility?

SIMON: And, you know, and that's where our roots are. That's where our families were raised, and that's where our heart is attached. So that's why we stay here. It's just as much a part of us as the Mississippi River is part of the Delta.

SIMON: Desha County Judge, Mark McElroy speaking from Arkansas City, Arkansas. Your Honor, thanks for being with us and good luck.

MCELROY: Thank you sir. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.