Fort Smith-area residents should prepare themselves for the possibility of more flash floods through Sunday, forecasters and emergency officials say.
The National Weather Service predicts the Fort Smith area will receive 1.71 inches of rain and could receive more than 2 inches in parts of Crawford County through Monday. NWS Meteorologist Karen Hatfield said the precipitation could cause flooding in parts of the region as it falls on grounds saturated by heavy downpours and flash floods late Thursday night.
"If we get another moderate to heavy batch of rain, it could make the situation worse," Hatfield said, even though she pointed out that higher rainfall totals as of Friday were not expected to hit the region until Sunday afternoon.
Approximately 0.6 inches of rain as of 5:30 a.m. Friday had fallen on the Fort Smith region, which on late Thursday night prompted NWS forecasters to issue a flash flood warning for the area into early Friday morning. While the floods may have saturated the grounds for further flash floods and submerged several roads in Sebastian County, they did not cause any damage in the area, said Sebastian County Deputy Emergency Management Director Travis Cooper.
Hatfield said the grounds in the region will hopefully dry some before the expected heavy downpours on Sunday afternoon. But floods could still happen in certain parts of the area, she said.
"If you get some of these heavier downpours in the right place, you could see some more local flash flooding as we get into the weekend and into early next week," she said. "Considering that’s two or three days away, there’s still some uncertainty that those rainfall totals could slide into the River Valley area. It’s not completely out of the question."
Cooper said residents over the weekend should be vigilant when driving in low-lying areas in Fort Smith and the surrounding areas that are prone to flash floods. He specifically mentioned Greenwood Avenue near Rogers Avenue and Arkansas 22 toward Barling as areas where motorists should proceed with caution.
Residents should also use their knowledge of the area if they plan to use the roads over the weekend, Cooper said.
"If you’ve lived in the area for the last 1-3 years, you actually know which parts and which areas typically flood," he said. "Do not drive in standing water or moving water."
Hatfield said anyone in the area who has made plans to be outdoors over the weekend should keep in mind where they can find shelter in a heavy downpour.
Residents should take these measures, Cooper said, for themselves and for first responders who could be managing the incident.
"If there’s a time when emergency crews have to respond to an event, know that they will put themselves in harm’s way, but at a certain time, they may have to back out because it’s not safe for them," he said.