Leader Blues

Monday, December 28, 2009

TOP STORY >> Who’ll stop the rain?


A car is submerged on Hwy. 67/167 between Jacksonville and Cabot on Thursday in the biggest downpour on record.

By JOAN McCOY and JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writers

After a record-setting, two-day deluge that dumped some nine inches of rain, area residents found some relief just before Christmas when the rain stopped, at least temporarily.

Sections of Hwy. 67/167 were closed on Christmas.

Widespread flooding affected the entire three county area.

The beanfield stretch between Redmond Road and the entrance to I-440 in Jacksonville was completely submerged both north and southbound until Saturday when it was reopened by the Highway and Traffic Department.

Residents in Taramount were unable to reach their homes although a few made it to the cutoff in boats. The entrance to Northlake from Main Street was blocked by floodwaters and about a dozen residents from Taramount parked along the cutoff and hiked through a resident's yard who had kindly left the gate open for them.

A home across from Reed's Bridge and trailers were flooded.

The stretch of Hwy. 31 from Beebe to Lonoke was flooded and about 30 homes were affected there. Floodwaters also closed Hwy. 31 from Hwy. 305 at Floyd to Hwy. 5.

Lt. Jim Kulesa of the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office said there were several reports of flooding of roadways in the county.

A woman and her baby were in a vehicle on Carson Bridge Road in Lonoke County, when her vehicle hydroplaned and became stuck on part of the road that collapsed.

The woman and her child were not injured and were rescued, Kulesa said. There were numerous reports of vehicles stalled in water.

Kulesa said the worst flooding was in the southern part of the county. However, Cocklebur Road in Ward was underwater Thursday as were parts of Hwy. 31 and Hwy. 319 from Lewisburg Road to Hwy. 5.

The Sheriff’s Office also received reports of residents who called to say they were unable to leave their homes. There are also a number roads that are still not passable. It’s been the wettest year on record — 81.5 inches so far.

Five homes in the Grayhawk area outside the Cabot city limits were evacuated at 3 a.m. Thursday. Capt. Dwayne Boswell of the Cabot Fire Department said the department assisted the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department, the South Bend Volunteer Fire Department and the Mountain Springs Volun-teer Fire Department.

The Cabot Fire Department and the South Bend Volunteer Fire Department used two flat-bottom boats in the rescue.

“We took the boats to the front door and took them to dry ground,” Boswell said.
Kulesa said the sheriff “is asking residents to remain home and use extreme caution if you must leave your residence.

He said “the highest risk will be tonight” — Chrismas night — “during darkness when people will attempt to travel to friends and family homes for the holiday. This is when the roadways will be the most hazardous due to the darkness.

“If you must travel, let someone know when you are leaving and what route you plan to take. Don’t just rely on a cell phone,” the lieutenant said.

LESS FLOODING

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said Thursday morning that even though streets flooded all over the city, fewer homes were flooded, so the recently completed drainage projects are a success.

Williams said he was out late into the night, as were Aldermen Ed Long and Eddie Cook, Public Works Director Jerrel Maxwell and Dan Willhite, head of the street department, keeping an eye on the flooding.

Drainage work kept water out of houses in Autumnwood, and Campground and Diedrich, Williams said, but sandbags were brought in to keep houses in the Highlands dry.

The main problem there was the sod that was put down to cover the raw dirt from the drainage work. The rain washed it off and into the drainage grates on the street, the mayor said.

The sandbags kept the water out of houses, but simply uncovering the grates helped more, he said.

“The water is killing us, but Autumnwood is a great success story,” said Cook, a candidate for mayor.

Cook said the amount of rainfall wasn’t really the problem; the deluge Wednesday evening was. The rain fell so fast, the city drainage system couldn’t contain it all. But being out and watching where the water flowed will help to improve the system, he said.

“It’s one thing to sit around and look at elevation maps but it’s another to get out and actually watch where it flows,” he said.

At 9 a.m., Maxwell was parked at the intersection of Kerr Station and Candlewood, his truck a barrier to stop traffic onto Candlewood, where a deep ditch was not discernable from the street.

So many streets were flooded that all the barricades had been used, he said. As the water ran down in some areas the barricades were being moved to the locations where they were most needed.

Road closings on Christmas Eve in Cabot included Candlewood Circle at Kerr Station Road, South Rockwood Road, Mountain Springs Road near Hwy. 5, South First Street and North Willie Ray Drive at Four Mile Creek.

Jacksonville Police Department spokesman April Kiser said the following roads were closed because of flooding — Hwy. 67-167 north and south between the 13 and 17 mile markers; Ellis Street; John Hardin Drive to the north city limits; West Main Street to North Lake; North First at Maddox Road; Hwy. 161 and S. Second St.; Hwy. 161 at the old railroad overpass viaduct; Redmond Road from James to Park, West Main at Jessica just east of Harris Road and Oneida to West Main.

Kiser said Dupree Park is also closed because it is “completely flooded. It’s looking pretty bad.”

ROADS CLOSED

Tracey Perkins, spokesman for the Pulaski County Road Department, said county roads that are barricaded because of heavy rains and flooding include Peters Road (one barricade); Centennial Road (four barricades); Hatcher Road (two barricades); Lena Lane (two barricades); Kellogg Acres Road (two barricades); Republican at Batesville Pike (two barricades); Maddox at Tom Box Road (two barricades); Maddox at Madru (two barricades); Maddox at Toneyville (two barricades); Batesville Pike at Fortson Road; Rixie Road (two barricades); Kellogg Acres Road at the bridge (one barricade); Batesville Pike at Bridge Creek (two barricades); Jacksonville Conway Road (two barricades); Fortson Road, four barricades, and Bethel at Jacksonville Conway Road (one barricade).

At mid-morning Thursday, city officials in Beebe reported minimal problems such as water over Railroad Street and drainage problems at Mississippi and Main. The real trouble was expected Thursday afternoon where houses that flooded in late October in the Windwood subdivision were expected to flood again from the swamp that would fill from the heavy rain.

White County Judge Michael Lincoln said Thursday afternoon that flooding was a problem county-wide.

“I haven’t heard of anyone trapped and unable to get out,” Lincoln said, “but we’ve got roads covered with water and bridges covered with water and it’s still coming down.

Lincoln said his biggest concern was the area around Griffithville, West Point and Georgetown near the Little Red River. The river was already at near flood stage when the rain started because the Corps of Engineers was releasing water from Greers Ferry Lake, he said, adding that the end of the rain won’t mean the end to the threat of flooding for that area.

Lincoln said assessment and repair of damage to the roads won’t start until Monday.