LOLLIE BOTTOMS -- After days of worry and fear the Lollie Levee would breach, officials now feel the calm as flood waters head out of the county and back off of the levee.
Local officials warned Lollie Bottoms residents late Thursday that a breach was imminent and those in the area should take all precautions necessary to be prepared. County Judge Jim Baker said on Friday that the best thing that could happen would be for the levee to hold "for just one more day."
Little did the many departments on city and county levels know, nor would they believe, the levee would hold up -- with not much wiggle room left.
The Log Cabin Democrat accompanied city of Conway spokesman Bobby M. Kelly III on Monday to view "The Little Levee that Could." Kelly had an announcement up his sleeve and was eager to announce he would be dedicating the levee with a key to the city.
"Levees had failed downstream and upstream by the time the crest got here and we didn't know what was in store for us," Kelly told the Log Cabin of his initial thoughts on how the levee would hold up during the historic 2019 Arkansas River Flood. "We didn't know she'd hold the way she did, but she did. It's a thankless job."
Local officials monitored the decades-old levee around the clock. Those 24-hour patrols halted Monday.
"I'm pleased to report that Conway is no longer in any threat of any kind of flooding so now we've taken off our 24-hour-a-day patrolling and placed [those employees] back in the city," Kelly said. "We're also pleased to announce the Conway Municipal Airport is now re-opened and we have opened Lollie Road to all thru traffic."
Because all patrols had moved out of the area, Kelly and a Log Cabin Democrat reporter walked from across the roadway, through flooded farmland and along the levee to get a closer look at the severely-damaged levee.
All sandbags were removed from the area, and the waters had significantly receded since Sunday.
The eroded portion of the levee was eaten away by flood waters, with only about 3-4 feet of the decades-old piece keeping out the waters that would have flooded Lollie Bottoms.
Seeing the levee hold back waters firsthand was eye-opening, Kelly said.
Kelly was with crews each day since the flooding threat hit Faulkner County as local officials monitored water levels at the levee.
"A lot of good people did a lot of great work out there, but what we saw ... what I saw with my own two eyes and what I felt out there, I can only describe as a miracle," he told the Log Cabin.
The miraculous efforts of the levee did not discredit the work of the many agencies -- Faulkner County Road Department, Conway Street Department, the Army National Guard and the Corps of Engineers -- Kelly said. However, the levee beat the odds that it was bound to breach and now officials are in the works to restore and improve the levee.
Waters along the levee are expected to recede enough by Thursday for officials to make their way into the damaged areas and make a detailed assessment of the levee's current condition.
City officials as well as those with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Faulkner County Drainage and Levee Board No. 1 met at the Conway Municipal Airport to discuss the recovery process.
The Corps of Engineers will be in charge of the rebuild process.
Kelly said the paperwork process has already begun and the planning stage is in the works.