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story.lead_photo.caption Cars splash through standing water on West Broadway after heavy rainfall in North Little Rock on Monday morning. Officials said as much as two inches of rain fell in parts of central Arkansas on Monday, with more expected overnight. - Photo by John Sykes Jr.

Heavy rains Sunday and Monday led to road closures in parts of Arkansas and to a handful of school closings in the northeast corner of the state.

The National Weather Service in Little Rock issued a flash-flood warning early Monday morning for northeast and central Arkansas after 2 to 3 inches of rain were dumped on the areas before 5 a.m.

Meteorologist Marlene Mickelson of the National Weather Service in Memphis said that parts of northeast Arkansas had received more than 5 inches of rain by Monday afternoon with more on the way.

"We have flood warnings for all the streams and rivers in northeast Arkansas," Mickelson said.

Heather Cross, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock, said 1½ to 2 inches of rain had fallen in parts of central Arkansas by Monday afternoon, with as much as 2 more inches expected before the front moves out of the area this morning.

"We have had several reports of flash flooding as water has overtaken some of the roadways in the area," Cross said.

An additional 3 inches of rainfall is possible in some parts of northeast Arkansas, according to a release from the National Weather Service in North Little Rock. Flooding is likely to occur around river basins -- including the Black, White and Cache rivers -- and their tributaries, a news release said.

The Pulaski County Special School District is closing Cato Elementary and the Sylvan Hills North campus because of flooding, district spokesman Jessica Duff said.

There is not damage to the schools, but at least four roads accessing the school are flooded, Duff said.

The students will continue to work on their school assignments online, Duff said.

Multiple school districts in northeast Arkansas dismissed students early Monday because of flooding in the surrounding area. They included the Trumann and Harrisburg districts in Poinsett County, Brookland in Craighead County and Melbourne in Izard County.

The Trumann district will be closed today as well, according to Superintendent Myra Graham.

"It became apparent [Monday] morning that some of our city streets were becoming so flooded we were afraid the buses couldn't get kids back home," Graham said. "It's a mess over here. I have only been in Trumann for eight years, but this is the worst I have ever seen."

Flooding isn't new to the area, the superintendent said, but rainfall Sunday and Monday's forecast prompted officials to come up with alternate routes for school buses.

"We got everyone here safely, but by [Monday] morning it became apparent how much rain was coming down," Graham said. "Some of our students also walk to school, and we didn't want them to have to walk in ankle-deep water to get home because our sidewalks have been overtaken by water."

A pedestrian waits in the rain for a light to change before crossing a street in downtown North Little Rock on Monday morning.
A pedestrian waits in the rain for a light to change before crossing a street in downtown North Little Rock on Monday morning.

Graham said today will be an alternative method of instruction day, which allows students to do their schoolwork from home in inclement weather.

More than a half-dozen state highways were flooded near Jonesboro, according to the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

Jeff Presley, director of the Jonesboro E911 system, said emergency workers were already dealing with minor flooding inside Jonesboro as well as road closures in other parts of Craighead County.

County officials prepared last week for the storm front by cleaning out drainage systems, but Presley said it didn't prevent water from collecting on the roads. Multiple roads had been closed within Jonesboro by Monday afternoon, according to a news release from the city.

Cherokee Village firefighters had to rescue a driver whose truck was stranded in high water Monday afternoon, according to a Facebook post shared by the city.

More than 10 roads in Pulaski County were barricaded Monday morning because of high water, according Cozetta Jones, the county's communications director. In Faulkner County, more than 25 roads experienced flooding, according to a news release from the sheriff's office.

Van Buren County Judge Dale James said four roads in his county were closed because of heavy rain.

"We have about two or three bridges under water," James said. "None of the main roads were affected. These were all the secondary county roads, and they're typically known to flood."

Monday's rain totals added to an unusually wet winter in Arkansas, said Thomas Jones, a meteorologist with the weather service in North Little Rock.

"For 2019 the rainfalls have been average, but we did end last year really wet, causing the moisture levels to already be high," he said. "So even normal amounts of rainfall this year still makes for a really wet winter."

Rain totals in December were 10.32 inches, well above the average of 4.79, Jones said. The state also dealt with an unusually high rainfall total of 8.21 inches in October, which is almost double the average of 4.91 inches.

Jones said an active subtropical jet stream is behind the heavy rains of the past few months.

"It is causing a lot of storm fronts in the Gulf and the Pacific, and that causes a lot of rainfall in Arkansas," Jones said.

The weather service predicts dry conditions Wednesday, with minor showers developing again Thursday before a wave of colder air follows.

A Section on 02/12/2019

Print Headline: Heavy rains in state close roads, schools


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