Rain sops Northwest Arkansas; flooding closes dozens of roads, traps some motorists

Jaxon Douglass, 21, waits Wednesday morning for water rescue personnel to reach him as he stands on concrete blocks outside his grandparents’ home in Little Flock in Benton County. His uncle was swept away by the water but was also rescued. More photos at arkansasonline.com/429/nwarain/.
(Pea Ridge Times/Annette Beard)
Jaxon Douglass, 21, waits Wednesday morning for water rescue personnel to reach him as he stands on concrete blocks outside his grandparents’ home in Little Flock in Benton County. His uncle was swept away by the water but was also rescued. More photos at arkansasonline.com/429/nwarain/. (Pea Ridge Times/Annette Beard)

Heavy rain swamped Benton and Washington counties Wednesday, flooding roads across the region and stranding some motorists in high water.

The National Weather Service office in Tulsa said the storm system that moved into Northwest Arkansas on Tuesday night dropped 1-3 inches of rain across most of the area by midmorning Wednesday, with rainfall of 4-6 inches reported in some areas.

Joe Sellers, a meteorologist with the weather service, said the forecast called for another 2-4 inches of rain in the region before the system moves out this morning.

The weather service reported a tornado spotted 3 miles south of Garfield about 8 a.m. Wednesday, but Robert McGowen, Benton County's administrator of public safety, said in the afternoon that he had not confirmed that one had touched down anywhere in Benton County and he had not received any reports of tornado damage.

However, McGowen said there were swift-water rescues across the county.

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In a Wednesday afternoon briefing, the National Weather Service's Little Rock office projected additional rainfall over much of Arkansas late Wednesday and into today and Friday.

Meteorologists again expect the northwest portion of the state to receive the most rain, which could cause additional flash flooding.

The weather service said the chance for severe weather through the end of the week is low, with only a possibility of isolated thunderstorms and wind gusts.

Benton County reported more than two dozen roads flooded as of noon Wednesday. The county's last update at 4 p.m. showed 13 roads and a few bridges still impassable, according to an email from Channing Barker, county communications director.

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The Springdale Fire Department responded to several reports of vehicles driving into water and becoming trapped, including one Springdale school bus. No injuries were reported.

Firefighters were sent to Kelly Road at 7:43 a.m. to assist with the bus, which was carrying two junior high school students, according to Trent Jones, district spokesman.

The bus driver decided it wasn't safe to proceed after coming upon an area where water was spilling out of a culvert so fast that it was chewing up the road, Jones said.

Two firefighters -- both of whom happened to be former Springdale school bus drivers -- reached the bus by driving a Chevrolet Tahoe down a nearby dirt road. They got the students off the bus and got them to school on the truck, Jones said.

"It was everybody working together to take care of each other," he said.

Another Springdale school bus was delayed in the Camelot subdivision of Elm Springs when the driver was unable to find a way out of the subdivision that was not flooded. Six junior high students were on that bus, Jones said. Water on the road eventually receded enough so the bus was able to drive through.

The Fire Department was called to six or seven instances of vehicles in water, but no injuries were reported, according to authorities.

Leslee Wright, a spokeswoman for the Bentonville School District, said a district bus slid into a ditch and into water on Battlefield Road near Central Avenue in Bentonville. She said one student was on the bus, but neither the student nor the driver was injured. The student was subsequently transported to school, she said.

Bentonville had several streets closed because of flooding. Bentonville Police Chief Jon Simpson said there were a couple of traffic accidents, but no serious injuries.

Keith Foster, a Rogers Police Department spokesman, said Rogers had many closed roads and that firefighters responded to many swift-water rescues. Foster said people were being advised to get out of their cars and get on the hoods or roofs until firefighters could get to them.

"The main thing is saving lives, and then we will take care of the property," Foster said.

Steve Harrison, assistant chief with Central Emergency Medical Services, said the ambulance service had been called out to four reports of vehicles trapped in floodwaters as of midmorning Wednesday. Harrison said no injuries were reported.

In Pea Ridge, more than 4.5 inches of rain was recorded by noon Wednesday, according to retired meteorologist Bill Ryan and city street superintendent Nathan See. Numerous city streets and county roads in the area quickly flooded. Even when the water receded, debris -- logs, rocks, gravel, bricks -- was left behind, causing traffic hazards.

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Pea Ridge and Little Flock police blocked both sides of Arkansas 94 on the south side of Pea Ridge near Sugar Creek. Sugar Creek Road was impassable both east and west of Arkansas 94.

Sgt. Anthony Murphy of the Fayetteville Police Department said the department had received three or four calls of traffic accidents Wednesday morning, but none were specifically weather-related.

Kelly Cantrell of the Washington County sheriff's office said the agency had received nine weather-related calls beginning around 7:30 a.m., most of them reporting roads closed because of flooding or because of fallen trees blocking roads, Cantrell said.

Lt. Shannon Jenkins, a spokeswoman for the Benton County sheriff's office, said deputies and road department crews worked to block off flooded roads. She encouraged people to stay off of them.

"It doesn't take much water to wash away a vehicle," Jenkins said. "Inches of water can sweep one away."

Siloam Springs had received 3.8 inches of rain by 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sellers said. Flooding closed several city streets and police had to direct traffic at five intersections because power to the traffic lights was out.

Routes to Northwest Arkansas National Airport from the south, including Arkansas 112, Arkansas 612 and Arkansas 264 had flash flooding problems Wednesday, according to Alex English, the airport's marketing specialist. A couple of departing flights were delayed.

Lance Arbuckle, principal of New Technology High School in Rogers, said the school had some flooding in two parts of the building, including a hallway between the biology lab and the physical science lab. Staff members used four wet-dry vacuum cleaners to suck up the water and sandbags to block additional water from entering, he said.

"There wasn't any damage, other than we've got wet carpet squares we're drying out," Arbuckle said. "It was surprising because that kind of flooding hasn't happened to us before. But it was under control within an hour or so."

Bella Vista and Rogers Fire Department water rescue personnel assist Little Flock personnel in rescuing two men from floodwaters on Rustic Drive in Little Flock. They also rescued five people and two dogs from a residence on that street. More photos at arkansasonline.com/429/nwarain/.
(Pea Ridge Times/Annette Beard)
Bella Vista and Rogers Fire Department water rescue personnel assist Little Flock personnel in rescuing two men from floodwaters on Rustic Drive in Little Flock. They also rescued five people and two dogs from a residence on that street. More photos at arkansasonline.com/429/nwarain/. (Pea Ridge Times/Annette Beard)