Latest on rain, tornado damage in Arkansas

Rivers spilled over their banks and roads flooded Monday as Arkansas residents kept an eye on the sky, where the threat of tornadoes persisted throughout the day, reports the Associated Press.

A suspected tornado tore through a wooded area of Polk County in western Arkansas, while residents in the northwest part of the state contended with flooded roads. In northeast Arkansas, several rivers left their banks, flooding mainly farmland but prompting City Hall in Hardy to evacuate ahead of the Spring River’s crest.

As evening approached, the National Weather Service issued a number of tornado warnings across Arkansas as a line of big storms worked eastward across the state.

Deputies in Polk County found downed and twisted trees near the tiny communities of Board Camp and Big Fork, a sheriff’s dispatcher said. One home had been crushed by a tree and deputies checked to see if anyone was inside, but the damage mainly went through timberland.

In Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas closed at 3:30 p.m. because street flooding in the city had slowed traffic so much. Spokesman Steve Voorhies said the campus planned to open as scheduled Tuesday morning.

About 7 inches of rain had fallen on Fayetteville from Thursday to Sunday, so the heavy rains that fell Monday landed on sodden ground. Emergency management officials in Washington County said rescuers had to pull numerous motorists to safety and urged people to stay off the roads.

About 20 miles northeast of Fayetteville, historic War Eagle Mill had flooded, as had an access road to the working grist mill. The first mill was built on the site in 1832 and the present version is the fourth to have been built there. In 1848, the mill was washed away in a flood.

The storms left thousands without power across the state, including more than 4,000 in central Arkansas’ Garland County, according to estimates from Entergy Arkansas, the state’s largest electric utility.

A spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe said it was too early for the state to make any emergency declarations, though a number of counties had already done so, based on the rains of the previous days. Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said the state is in an unusual position because the forecast for Tuesday called for more strong storms and heavy rains, which could delay assessment of Monday’s damage.

Meteorologist Brian Smith of the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock said the rough weather was expected to wane overnight Monday, a calm before the next round Tuesday afternoon.

“It could be pretty explosive, developing over a large part of the state,” Smith said.

Rain was forecast to continue into Wednesday, though calm weather was forecast for Thursday and Friday.

In northeast Arkansas, the Black, Spring and Eleven Point rivers were forecast to crest well above flood stage on Tuesday. The area endured damaging flooding in 2008, and the rising water on Monday reminded residents of those days.

Hardy Mayor Nina Thornton said officials began evacuating residents from vacation homes along the Spring River on Sunday. By Monday morning roads to those homes were impassible, she said. Most of those homes stand atop 10-foot pilings, and the water was expected to reach their floors.

With the river projected to crest at 21 feet, Thornton said City Hall would get about six inches of water. But she said she feared the crest would be much higher because of the additional rainfall.

In Randolph County, the 911 office reported that flooding was confined to farmland. That wasn’t the case in 2008, when a number of homes were washed away. Residents rebuilt on higher ground or elevated their homes on pilings.

The Buffalo National River was forecast to crest at 29 feet at St. Joe, which will bring flood waters to camp sites at Tyler Bend, a popular point for launching canoes and kayaks on the scenic waterway. At Van Buren in far western Arkansas, the Arkansas River reached flood stage of 22 feet Monday, with a crest of 25 feet forecast Tuesday, which will result in flooding of agricultural lands.

 

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