500-Year Flood inundates Arkansas River Valley

A 500-year flood has already inundated the Arkansas River Valley from the astonishing levels of rain received within the Arkansas River Basin in Oklahoma and Kansas. 

Often misunderstood, a 500-year flood does not indicate a ‘once every 500-years’, but rather a .2% chance every year.

Though the River Valley has not seen precipitation during the last few days, rain received from storm systems in Northeastern Oklahoma and Kansas have drained into the Arkansas River Basin.

The US National Weather System has advised residents and business within the flood zone of the “extremely dangerous and life threatening situation.”

Initially the Arkansas River was to crest at 41.0’, but  the NWS has forecasted a crest of 42.5’ by early Wednesday, May 29. The Arkansas River broke the previous 1945 record of 38.1’ on Sunday, May 26 when it hit 38.14’ at 3 p.m.

Kendall Beam, Sebastian County Management, briefed area officials including Senator John Boozman, Congressman Steve Womack, and Judge David Hudson with expectations of the upcoming events. 

“The saving grace about the situation is the slow rise of the river allowing time for residents and businesses to prepare,” Beam stated. He continued, “We have the National Guard High Water Rescue teams within the area,  there have been 140 thousand sand bags created by 1500 tons of  sand ... and we are continuing to bring in dump truck loads of crusher dust.”

Concerns expressed during the briefing was the upcoming storms and the possibility of the storms in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas exacerbating the situation. It was expressed by an Army Corp of Engineer that the additional rain will not necessarily increase the footage of the river’s peak, but it may prolong the peak.

According to Beam, each of the levees have been checked consistently on a four-hour rotation and there have been no signs of a possible breach.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation has closed several bridges going into and out of the City of Fort Smith due to flooding. These bridges include the Midland, Garrison, Ozark, and 540 Bridge. Currently, the closures will remain in effect for a minimum of one week with the forecast of the river to not fall below 40’ until early June.

If it is necessary to travel into Fort Smith, Van Buren, and other areas within Sebastian County, please check road and bridge closings through www.idrivearkansas.com.

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