Friday, March 11, 2016

TOP STORY >> Storms drench, do little damage

Leader staff writer

Central Arkansas received more rain from the large storm system that wobbled through Arkansas Tuesday through Friday than the area received all through January and February.

For the first two months of the year, the area had received about 5.6 inches of rain, down about 1.5 inches from the 30-year average.

But rains over the last four days dropped more than 6 inches of rain, causing minor flooding, accidents and school delays.

The rainfall on Tuesday was record-breaking. The area received about 2.2 inches of rain, nearly one-third of an inch more than the 1990 record of 1.97.

As a safety precaution, Lonoke delayed school openings for an hour Wednesday. “We have so many low-lying roads in the area, we wanted our bus drivers to have more visibility to determine road safety,” explained Amanda Rather, the district coordinator. “Everyone arrive safe,” she said.

More than 10 inches of rain fell in parts of southwest Arkansas, resulting in significant flash flooding. Minor flooding is occurring on rivers, such as the lower White, Cache, Saline and Ouachita Rivers. While widespread heavy rain is over, another system will arrive from the Plains on Sunday and will more than likely trigger severe, but scattered, storms in the afternoon and evening. Large hail and damaging winds are expected when these storms flare up.

High-water issues (flooding of homes and roads) could continue for several days, and water will remain high for several weeks on area tributaries, mainly in the southeast half of the state.

Beebe Mayor Mike Robert-son, along with the city’s fire and police chiefs, posted this weather warning on the city’s website, “With the increasing water level due to continued heavy rain and runoff from other areas, and the very likely potential for additional heavy rains over the next several days, the City of Beebe recommends that residents in the Winwood Subdivision consider and make the necessary arrangements to evacuate the area should the need arise. Specifically, the areas of Tori Lane, Birchwood and April Lane, as these are prone to flooding.”

Beebe code enforcement officer Milton McCullar said Friday that flooding had not affected houses in the subdivision this week, but water covered Tori Lane on Thursday. It had receded by early Friday afternoon.

Cabot Police Sgt. Keith Graham said they hadn’t had an increase in accidents because of the weather. “It has been a really normal week, even with the rain.”

Cabot Director of Operations Eddie Cook said no roads had to be closed and touted the city’s drainage projects as the reason. He called this week’s record rainfall a “non-event.”

Supporting the “non-event” statement, Capt. Carl Minden of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office said there were 14 accidents this week compared to 25 during the same week in 2015. The county’s road department closed Sayles Road earlier in the week, and Valentine Road was still barricaded on Friday afternoon.

April Kiser of the Jacksonville Police Department forwarded an email from Capt. Joseph McCollough to The Leader. He wrote that there hadn’t been an abnormal number of accidents in the city, but “we have responded to assist the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office on a couple of vehicles submerged in ditches outside of the city limits off of Graham Road.”

Jacksonville had closed the one-lane bridge on West Main Street by the Tara Mount subdivision, but it was reopened Friday afternoon, and Dupree Park was flooded “as normal,” according to Public Works Director Jim Oakley.

Sherwood also closed its section of West Main Street leading to the one-lane bridge from Jacksonville Cutoff. Public Works Director Brian Galloway said the city fared pretty well. But crews did have to close Trammel Road under the railroad bridge near the Roundtop Filling Station and bring to one lane a section of Jacksonville-Cato Road in Gravel Ridge. All the water had receded by Friday afternoon though.

As for outages, there were none in The Leader’s coverage area Friday afternoon.

Sally Graham, with Entergy, said in an email, “The storm that came through on Tuesday night took out some poles in Lonoke and crews worked all day Wednesday to restore power, and we finished up with restoring power Thursday. We also had an outage at the air force base on Tuesday due to the storm, which we were able to restore.”

Also on Tuesday, a tree fell on an Entergy power line near North First Street in Jacksonville. It broke two poles.

Power was rerouted, as wires in 6 feet of water were de-energized. A post on Entergy’s Facebook page stated that the broken poles and four others would be replaced with stronger ones that will withstand impacts better in the future.

Tori Moss of First Electric Cooperative said the utility “experienced minimal outages in our Jacksonville district due to recent rain. We did not require additional crews to restore service to our members.”

Rick Kron contributed to this report.