Leader Blues

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

TOP STORY >> Flooding damage daunting

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Just like a rising river, the swamp behind the Windwood subdivision in Beebe overflowed its banks Friday evening and ran into 15 houses, most of them on Torrey Lane.

Beebe Fire Chief William Nick said Mayor Mike Robertson was in the subdivision surveying the situation and called him to help residents evacuate.

Most residents left when it became clear that the water would continue to rise, Nick said.

“They got out when they could,” he said, but firefighters waded through knee-deep water and carried two small children out on their backs.

The rescue was between 5:30 and 6 p.m., he said, adding that the children were turned over to their father who arrived home at about the same time the children were brought out.

Continuing down the street, firefighters found themselves in water up to their waists and then to their chests, he said. But the water was not swift, only rising. Boats were available to take residents out if needed, he said, but the firefighters found no one else at home.

Nick said the water had receded by Sunday.

Clerk-Treasurer Carol Crump-Westergren said the flooded houses, which were built in a floodplain, were elevated according to the 2001 floodplain map. So in theory, they shouldn’t flood. Houses built according to the 2005 floodplain map didn’t flood, she said. The mayor said even though houses can be built in a floodplain, the city does not encourage it.

Tamara Jenkins, director of the office of emergency management in White County, was in Beebe Tuesday morning to look at the high water marks in Windwood. But later that day, she was in Georgetown, about 18 miles west of Kensett and a mile upstream from the point where the Little Red River and the White River converge and where flooding is frequently a problem.

The White River backs up into fields along Hwy. 36 there and then if the river continues to rise, it covers the highway too.

Jenkins said the Georgetown residents are accustomed to the problem and when it appears the river will cover the highway, some stock up with supplies and stay home until the water recedes. Some move out.

Last March, when the highway stayed under water longer than usual, rescuers brought some residents out by boat while other residents boated out to their cars, parked outside the floodwater so they could go to work.

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams was out Tuesday with his department heads touring the areas where the water was the highest last week. Williams said they left notes on the doors telling residents to call city hall if they had water inside their homes.

Money for individual assistance could be available to help pay for damages through the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, he said.

The city will also try to get money from ADEM for damage to the police department which had two feet of water in it Thursday evening.

Williams said he is working on a grant to help pay for a flood control project in the Highland area, where many of the 15 or so houses that flooded are located.