A cold front expected to bring heavy rain in Arkansas today and Friday "has our attention," County Judge Preston Scroggin said, and Conway Fire Chief Bart Castleberry said firefighters were going door-to-door in downtown Conway Wednesday afternoon taking requests for sandbags.
Scroggin said that rain over the last three months has led to "some unique conditions as far as groundwater saturation," meaning that the water expected to fall on Faulkner County may have nowhere to go except up and over roads and property.
The County Judge’s office and other state agencies received an alert at about 3:25 p.m. Wednesday from National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist John Robinson under the "all-caps" banner "ARKANSAS IS FACING A VERY SERIOUS FLOOD THREAT."
According to this alert, "Showers and some thunderstorms will advance northward into Arkansas later tonight into Thursday morning. Then, (on) Thursday evening a cold front will make its way into western Arkansas. This front will move across the state on Thursday night and Friday morning, exiting eastern Arkansas early Friday afternoon. Even after the front passes, rain will linger in the state for a number of hours."
In another special weather statement issued from the National Weather Service Wednesday afternoon, meteorologists warn of "as much as 5 to 7 inches of rain ... in portions of central and eastern Arkansas Thursday through Friday night.
National Weather Service Little Rock Forecast Office meteorologist Sean Clarke said on Wednesday that the approaching weather systems are more of "the pattern that we’re stuck in," which has brought an unusually rainy Fall and largely saturated the ground, "giving the water basically no place to go." Clarke said the rain will be heaviest — with 5 to 7 inches expected — east of a north-south line bisecting the state roughly at Little Rock.
"We’re hoping it’s going to be merely a rain event," Clarke also said.
Scroggin said county workers will be stationed at the usual "trouble spots" where water tends to cover roadways, and urged motorists to either try another way around or give up on trips that would take them across flowing water.
The main worry, Scroggin said, are flash flood events that can "take a friendly little creek and turn it into a monster."
The Arkansas River is currently below flood stage, "but it could get there within 24 hours," Scroggin said. Should the river level become equal to or greater than that of local waterways, then flooding problems caused by local rainfall can be compounded, Scroggin said.
Should Cadron Creek be unable to empty into the Arkansas River, homes along James Lane in the Treasure Hills subdivision may be threatened. Palarm Creek has a history of flooding Grassy Lake Road, giving residents of the Rogers Country Estates subdivision no way in or out save for a makeshift — and illegal — "on ramp" carved by vehicles into the eastbound shoulder of Interstate 40.
A flooded Arkansas River also prevents Tucker Creek and Tupelo Bayou from draining water that falls on Conway, flooding a great deal of agricultural land in the Lollie Bottoms.
Faulkner County Sheriff Karl Byrd said that his agency was overseeing inmate labor on Wednesday to fill sandbags, and will work in concert with local fire/rescue agencies and the Faulkner County Office of Emergency Management to address what situations may arise with the expected rain.
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)