Damage caused to Crawford County by flooding on Wednesday was moderate but could be compounded by additional rains over the weekend, county officials said.
Heavy rains expected Friday and Saturday added to rainfall from storms earlier this week could cause natural disaster-level damage to the county, said Chris Keith, Crawford County road superintendent.
A hazardous weather outlook was issued Thursday by the National Weather Service for Crawford County and the surrounding area for the weekend.
Severe thunderstorms with “dangerous lightening,” limited visibility and high winds are expected for the area on Friday and Saturday.
Crawford County road crews were nearly complete in their task Thursday morning of repairing low-water bridges and overpasses damaged by flooding on Wednesday, Keith said.
“The water is pretty much receded off of most of them today and we’re getting them patched back up so people can get in and out,” Keith said.
Damaged in Wednesday’s flood waters were 12 to 15 bridges and overpasses throughout the county, including in Natural Dam - where Mountain Fork Creek overflowed the dam and bridge on Natural Dam Road, stranding residents who live beyond the bridge, Keith said.
Also in Natural Dam, culverts under a detour road built as part of an Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department bridge reconstruction project on Arkansas 59 were damaged by debris and gravel washed under the culverts by flood waters.
Highway workers used a backhoe to remove the culverts Wednesday so that water could continue to flow under the detour road.
A flash flood watch for “widespread and potentially life-threatening flash flooding” expected Friday night through Saturday evening was also issued Thursday by the NWS for the area.
Moderate to major main-stem river flooding is possible during that time, including Lee Creek at Van Buren, the watch states.
“It’s probably going to be a repeat on Saturday,” Keith said.
While damages to the county were minimum on Wednesday, Keith predicted that potential flooding over the weekend could lead to more extensive damage that possibly could place the county within the minimum financial requirements of a state of emergency.
According to reports from the NWS, Lee Creek near Van Buren peaked at 401.5 feet at 4:52 p.m. on Wednesday, the Arkansas River at Van Buren peaked at 22.58 feet at 10 p.m. and the Mulberry River near Mulberry peaked at 10.11 feet.
All were at action or minor flood levels or below, and had receded below flood levels by 7 a.m. on Thursday.
Area residents were warned by the NWS flood watch to stay alert during storms with the potential for flooding.
“If you are in the watch area, keep informed, and be ready for quick action if flash flooding is observed or if a warning is issued,” the flood watch states. “Persons living in low lying areas along main-stem rivers should monitor the latest forecast and be ready to evacuate to higher ground.”
The NWS also warned against driving vehicles into flood waters.
“Take a different route to reach your destination or wait until the water recedes. Remember, most flood related deaths occur in automobiles and flooding is the leading cause of weather related deaths,” the flood watch states.