River Valley Flooding: One year later – Fort Smith business owner recounts recovery, mayor lauds community effort


FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Last summer, significant flooding took its toll in the River Valley. Floodwaters racked up millions of dollars in recovery costs. The Fort Smith mayor said most businesses managed to get back on their feet before COVID-19 could knock them down again.

These days, Gina Barker smiles when she works at Quick Discounts, the retail store she owns. It’s the smile of someone who was close to losing her livelihood but escaped Mother Nature’s wrath and ultimately recovered.

“There were points in everyday I thought we may not make it,” Barker said of the historic floods that left her building irreparably damaged. “A couple points I just thought, ‘we are not gonna make it.'”

Last summer’s flooding in Sebastian County racked up millions in recovery costs.

“It’s always a big price tag to recover,” said Mayor George McGill.

Businesses relocated quickly and efficiently, McGill said, limiting the storms’ ultimate impact on jobs in Fort Smith.

“A lot of communication between entities, a lot of coordination and cooperation [got] things done,” McGill said. “It happened in an amazing, good way.”

McGill said he considers the community’s response a success, especially since COVID-19 couldn’t knock business owners off their feet again or exacerbate problems associated with longterm recovery efforts.

“As we sit here today, the evidence is there that it did not break us,” McGill said.

Barker’s shop is one that relocated soon after she learned her building accumulated too much in damages to be salvaged. The new building is on Jenny Lind Road.

“We signed the papers, the lease on this building and reopened in three weeks,” Barker said.

With a disaster fund Barker set up several years before the floods, she was able to keep Quick Discounts afloat until consumers began pouring money into the company again.

“That money ran out the day we reopened in this location, so it’s good to plan ahead,” Barker said.

A year later, Quick Discounts is doing just fine, Barker said. The first COVID-19 wave couldn’t even halt the regrowth.

“Fortunately, we had a good retirement account I could draw off of and great employees to help us rebuild,” Barker said.

Find more stories regarding the historic River Valley flooding by visiting our River Valley News section of our website.

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