Thursday floods, severe weather inflict an estimated $1M in damages on Crawford County

Max Bryan
Fort Smith Times Record
Steven Farquhar, 57, watches as towers wade into a flooded area in Clear Creek Park Campground Thursday, April 29, 2021, in the Alma area.

Officials estimate Crawford County took on at least $1 million in flood damage from torrential downpours this week.

Every low-water bridge in the county was underwater at some point Thursday as tributaries to the Arkansas River swelled from around 2.5 inches of rain in the region Wednesday night. The floodwaters also washed away all gravel installed with FEMA grants following the 2019 river flood.

The preliminary damage estimate was taken before county officials discovered damage to Ash Drive and Lancaster bridges in the Mountainburg area. These bridges will be closed indefinitely.

Stay safe:Update: Reported tornado spotted near Greenwood; Fort Smith under flood warning till Saturday

County Emergency Management Director Brad Thomas is "fairly confident" they'll meet or exceed the $240,000 damage threshold to receive assistance from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM). An assessor with that agency will be in the county Thursday.

Officials could also apply to FEMA if they're confident they'll receive the points necessary to receive federal assistance.

“It was just unbelievable how much it flooded," said Thomas.

While most of the tributaries had receded by Friday afternoon, Frog Bayou Creek was still flooded. The creek overwhelmed the base of Clear Creek Park, which holds an RV camping area.

First responders rescued an RV owner who hadn't evacuated the area Thursday morning and assisted in towing operations later in the day. At 1:30 that morning, Alma firefighters rescued four people from floodwaters at Chitwood Apartments.

Thomas attributed the limited rescues to the time of the storm — he said fewer people were out in their vehicles late Wednesday and early Thursday than other times of the day.

"We were fortunate in that aspect," Thomas said.

The downpours caused the river to swell to 26.8 feet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Van Buren gauge. It flowed at 229,000 cubic feet per second that afternoon — more than five times the force it flowed Tuesday morning.

“The water was never on the levees, so they’re fine," Thomas said. "I’m sure there’s some minor agricultural damage to crops, but no one has reported anything to me.”

The river was measured at 19.9 feet at 1 p.m. Friday, below minor flood stage.