Rain brings flooding, road closings in Northwest Arkansas, River Valley

Traffic passes flowering trees Wednesday March 24 2023 along Interstate 49 on a rainy day in Rogers. Go to nwaonline.com/photos for today’s photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Traffic passes flowering trees Wednesday March 24 2023 along Interstate 49 on a rainy day in Rogers. Go to nwaonline.com/photos for today’s photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

Benton County had several dirt-road closures caused by rain that came in overnight and stayed into Friday.

The county reported 12 roads closed as of 3 p.m. Friday, all but three of which were in the northwest part of the county, according to Melody Kwok, county communications director. There were as many as 19 roads closed Friday morning.

"There are not too many that are damaged, just water over the top of them," said Jay Frasier, county administrator of public services.

A culvert was reported blown out at the intersection of Fruitwood and Stagecoach roads, according to the county. High water removed material like red dirt and base from the top of the pipe and cut a void into it, Frasier said.

There were no reported road closings in Washington County on Friday morning, said John Luther, county emergency management director. He did say some low-water crossings could be impacted by the rain.

Law enforcement in the River Valley warned residents to not go around barricades and drive through roads flooded due to heavy rain Friday.

The Fort Smith Police Department provided a list of "problem areas" in the city stemming from flooding through its various social media platforms. The department listed 27 areas where streets were flooding.

The Sebastian County Sheriff's Office reported on its Facebook page Friday morning Hackett police closed Arkansas 45 between Chapel and South Main while Central City police closed Arkansas 255 between Butler and Pierce Newman due to flooding. Barling police were also monitoring Fort Street at Strozier Lane.

Rain totals from 7 a.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Friday morning show Bella Vista with 5.5 inches, Bentonville with 3.3 inches, Springdale with 2.9 inches and Fayetteville with 0.8 inches, said Pete Snyder, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Tulsa.

Northwest Arkansas National Airport in Highfill, a National Weather Service reporting site, reported 2.2 inches of rain Thursday for a total of 6.6 inches of precipitation this month -- bringing the year-to-date total to about 13.4 inches.

Drake Field in Fayetteville has reported 5.4 inches of rain this month, bringing its total precipitation for 2023 to 11.9 inches.

It will be partly sunny with a high of 61 today and mostly sunny with a high of 64 Sunday.

Elsewhere in Arkansas

Thunderstorms brought flash flooding and tornado warnings to much of the state Friday, according to National Weather Service meteorologists.

Most of the storms had moved east of the Mississippi River, although some lingered over Ashley and Chicot counties around 8:45 p.m., said Dennis Cavanaugh, warning coordination meteorologist with the weather service in North Little Rock.

No tornadoes had been confirmed Friday night, Cavanaugh said, with most of the trouble coming from flash flooding.

"There appeared to have been hundreds of roads across the state under water at one time of the day or another," Cavanaugh said.

John Lewis, a senior forecaster for the weather service, said flash flooding occurred in Polk, Scott and Logan counties. He said some areas had received 3 to 4 inches of rain over a 24-hour period.

Lewis said Friday's rain added to the state's already swollen rivers.

"The ground is very saturated," he said. "It's very wet out there. As long as it keeps raining, the rivers aren't going anywhere. They're going to stay up."

The weather service's local hydrology chart showed moderate flooding predicted by this morning along the White River at Des Arc and the Spring River at Hardy and Imboden. By Sunday morning, moderate flooding is also expected along the Black River at Black Rock.

Cavanaugh said some short-term tornado warnings were issued late Friday for specific areas because rotation within thunderstorms could be seen on radar.

"That could be precursor to a tornado," he said. "It's to give folks some time to get to their storm shelter, ideally before the tornado hits."

All of south and much of east Arkansas was under a tornado watch Friday evening, but Lewis said the threat was expected to move out of the state by 9 p.m.

At 1:30 p.m. Friday, the weather service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., issued a tornado watch for southwest Arkansas until 7 p.m. Tornadoes and large hail were possible, according to the bulletin.

Late Friday afternoon, the tornado watch was expanded to include southeast Arkansas, too.

Entergy Arkansas' outage map indicated about 12,000 of its 728,000 customers were without electricity as of 6 p.m. Friday.

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas reported about 2,550 of its 600,000 members without electricity late Friday afternoon.

The Storm Prediction Center warned the greatest threat of tornadoes would come Friday afternoon and evening in portions of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Neighboring states

In Texas, a suspected tornado struck about 5 a.m. Friday in the southwest corner of Wise County, damaging homes and downing trees and power lines, said Cody Powell, the county's emergency management coordinator. Powell said he had no reports of injuries.

The weather service had not confirmed a tornado, but damage to homes was also reported in neighboring Parker County, said meteorologist Matt Stalley.

The two areas are about 10 miles apart on the western edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Earlier Friday, a car was swept away and two passengers drowned as it tried to cross a bridge over a flooded creek in the town of Grovespring in southwestern Missouri just after midnight.

The driver, who made it out of the water along with three other passengers, told authorities the rain made it difficult to see that water from a creek had covered the bridge, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Thomas Young said.

Meanwhile, the search continued in another southwestern Missouri county for a woman who was missing after flash flooding from a small river washed a car off the road.

The Logan Rogersville Fire Protection District said the victim's dog was found safe, but there was no sign of the woman. Two others who were in the car were rescued. Crews planned to use boats and have searchers walking along the riverbank.

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