Arkansas Braces for Flooding, Tornadoes

June 18, 2015 06:15 AM
Arkansas Braces for Flooding, Tornadoes

Severe thunderstorms moved into southwest Arkansas late Wednesday afternoon as the remnants of slow-moving Tropical Depression Bill approached the state.

Weather officials issued severe thunderstorm warnings for a handful of southwest Arkansas counties. Chris Buonanno, a meteorologist with the North Little Rock National Weather Service office said there was a possibility of damaging winds or an isolated tornado. But the main worry will be the rain.

"Tropical systems are very efficient rainfall producers. Due to the recent heavy rainfalls, we've issues flash flood watches for the northwest half of the state lasting into Thursday evening," Buonanno said.

Rick Fahr, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, said the state was notified that 3 to 5 inches of rain are expected in the northwestern corner of the state. He said the same areas that saw flooding in May and June could be hit again as the water travels east in the state's rivers. It's not yet known how high the rivers may get.

"We won't know until the rain is over," Fahr said.

Lisa May, a hydrometeorological technician in the National Weather Service office in Shreveport, said it expects water levels to rise along the Red River in southwest Arkansas.

National Weather Service Hydrologist Tabitha Clarke, in North Little Rock, said with the storm system bringing rain to Oklahoma and Arkansas, the Arkansas River was expected to reach minor and possibly moderate flood stage at several points throughout the state.

She said, however, the levels weren't expected to be as high as they were during late May and early June rain events that caused flooding in several neighborhoods and closed the river to barge traffic for a time.

Robert Stobaugh, a farmer who has 6,000 acres in Pope and Conway counties, said his biggest concern is the Arkansas River overflowing its banks again near Morrilton. Stobaugh said about 40 to 45 percent of his crops— wheat, corn, soybeans and rice — have been damaged or destroyed by flooding.

"We farm in the bottoms; we expect floods. But this is a flood with a really long tail," he said. "This one, this one feels like it's lasting forever. Some of our fields we couldn't even get planted."

Stobaugh said he still has 200 to 300 acres that are underwater, including some rice fields he's been trying to salvage. To save them, he needs fertilizer, which has been held up by slowed commercial traffic on the Arkansas River. Stobaugh said even his wheat, which was planted on high ground, has been hurt by the rain.

"We've been driving all around just trying to find fertilizer," he said. "There won't be a profit this year, that's not even a question. We're mitigating the loss."

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