Leader Blues

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

TOP STORY >>High water everywhere

IN SHORT: After three days of heavy downpour, a cold front moved in to lower temperatures into the 20s and below.

Leader staff writer

Pull on the overcoats. Arkansas finally has some serious winter weather.
A cold front has moved into the state after three days of near solid drizzle punctuated with occasional blasts of downpour, leaving many central Arkansas areas under water.

Rainfall, which started Friday and dropped off finally on Monday, delivered more than five inches of rain in central Arkansas, according to the National Weather Service. This most recent onslaught of rain, accompanied with earlier January rains and a wet December puts an end to the state’s drought conditions, according to the weather service.

Weather Squadron officials at Little Rock Air Force Base said they received 5.1 inches during the three-day drenching. Observers for the National Weather Service reported more than four inches of rain in Cabot, in excess of 4.5 inches in Searcy and around 4.25 inches in Des Arc.

So far, in the first 15 days of January, the area has seen 6.64 inches of rain, more than 4.5 inches above the normal for the month, and there’s a slight chance for more rain this weekend.

The bulk of the rainfall from this past weekend’s storm came Saturday, with central Arkansas getting 2.73 inches of precipitation.

For the month, not only has the rainfall been above average, but also so has the temperature. The average for the month has been 55 degrees and the lows have been just 40 degrees. This compares to 30-year averages of 49.5 degrees for the high and 30.8 degrees for the low.

The wet and warm January comes on the heels of a warm and slightly dry 2006. The year tied 1938 for the fourth warmest year on record. The only warmer years were 1921, 1954, and 1998.

The state saw 48.75 inches of rain during the year, down 2.18 inches from the average of 50,93 inches per year.
In Jacksonville, Bayou Meto ,noted for quickly spilling over its banks during a heavy rainfall, went even further, extending beyond the fence line which divides Dupree Park and Parkview subdivision. Both are located off Redmond Road in Jacksonville.

“It’s in the backyards but it is not in the houses at Parkview,” said Capt. Robert Laws of the Jacksonville Fire Department on Monday. “We’re keeping a close eye out on it.”

Laws also mentioned the dangers of going around barricades put in place to close sections of roadways off to traffic. This week, he knew of only one roadway — West Main, a corridor linking Northlake Addition to Jacksonville. There is a bridge that also crosses the Bayou Meto along the roadway.

“The main problem is people in their cars going around barricades,” Laws said. “In the past, we’ve had several water rescues down there.”

The fire depratment worked out a contingency plan, which involved Sherwood emergency crews, due to the lack of a direct route between Jacksonville and Northlake subdivision. Sherwood Fire Department and MEMS will be the first responders to Northlake subdivision until the floodwaters subside, according to Laws. Jacksonville firefighters will still respond but must take a detour, involving a route along Hwy. 67/167 before taking the Kiehl Avenue exit.

At least, one recently built house nearby Homer Adkins Pre-K School off Arkansas 161 South had standing water to its side and in its backyard. Other yards were saturated with small water puddles scattered along the subdivision but no water covered the roadways in that area.

Near Reed’s Bridge across from a historic Civil War battlefield, water surrounded a building nearby a house as the Bayou Meto continued to expand out of its north bank late Monday afternoon. A mobile home on the south side of the Bayou Meto was also being threatened by the floodwaters.

The waters of the Bayou Meto did not cross over Reed’s Bridge but it did run wildly just underneath it. And along Redmond Road, water and debris caused drainage pipes to become invisible. Water pooled along both sides of the Redmond Road but fortunately never overflowed onto it.

Marty Trexler, a senior forecaster for the National Weather Service in North Little Rock, indicated that central Arkansas encountered between 4.73 and 6.53 inches of rainfall since this past Friday. The massive amount of rainfall led to localized flooding in low-lying areas across Pulaski County.

“We are finally seeing the back edge of it,” Trexler said on Monday morning. “And we just issued a winter weather advisory until noon today.”

Jacksonville did not receive any wintry mix from this weather advisory but NWS prediction of a cold front hitting Pulaski County came to past. Trexler said that temperatures would dip down to the mid-20s overnight into Monday night and before dawn on Tuesday. He also explained that the cold front would signal an end to the rainfall. A cold weather pattern is predicted to extend through Saturday.