Storms, Heavy Rains And Flooding Leave At Least Two Dead, Many Pastures Under Water

May 12, 2015

By Ryan McGeeney

Fast Facts:

  • Two confirmed dead in Nashville after apparent tornado
  • Many rivers in state now in flood stage
  • Some recently-planted crops may be lost

Heavy overnight rains throughout the state caused rivers to rise and creeks to overrun their banks, leaving pasturelands under inches — or feet — of water across much of western Arkansas.

The Howard County Sheriff’s Office also reported at least two people had died in Howard County after heavy storms, possibly including tornadoes, swept through Nashville.

Sherry Beaty-Sullivan, Howard County Agricultural Extension Agent, said many buildings on the west side of Nashville appeared damaged Monday morning, including one church that appeared to have suffered a buckled roof. Beaty-Sullivan said that electricity was also out for much of the west side of Nashville.

The storm band, which stretched hundreds of miles from the Texas-Mexico border to the Wisconsin-Canada border, swept eastward across western Arkansas overnight. U.S. Geological Survey river gauges showed rivers at levels well above flood stage Monday morning, including Crooked Creek in Yellville at above 17.6 feet, the Buffalo National River near Hasty above 28.4 feet, and the Mulberry River near Mulberry at above 15.3 feet. The bridge that carries Arkansas Highway 23 over the Mulberry River about 30 miles north over Ozark was reported as under water late Sunday afternoon.

Jack Clark, Yell County Agricultural Extension Agent, said flooding from the Petit Jean River near Dardanelle had left surrounding pastures under several feet of water.

“I’m seeing water in places I’ve never seen it go in my three years in this position,” Clark said.

Jerri Lephiew, Columbia County staff chair said nearly every creek in her county seemed to be flooded, with erosion rapidly occurring in multiple pastures and roads.

“We’re just sopping wet,” Lephiew said. She said much of the floodwater would likely prove more of a problem for the counties on northwestern Louisiana, as it flows south toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Joe Paul Stuart, Stuart County staff chair, said high winds had damaged several acres of corn, and that water was covering many acres of wheat that would not be replanted, being too late in the season.

“We had a lot of high winds, but got pretty lucky — I don’t think any tornados touched down here,” Stuart said. “We’re expecting the Red River to flood, and cattle farmers are moving their herds to higher ground.”

Prior to the weekend’s storms, Arkansas crop growers were enjoying a brief respite from an already-wet spring, during which farmers completed enough planting to catch up with the state’s five-year average for planting progress. Jason Kelley, wheat and feed grains agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said most producers were “at a point where they needed a rain, but not a flood.”

“It appears the heaviest of rains were mainly in western Arkansas, but the delta region did have some high rainfall totals,” Kelley said. “Any time we get large rains, we can have issues with flooding and stand establishment. There were a lot of crops planted last week, right ahead of these rains, so even fields that didn’t flood may still have trouble getting a stand after these rains.”

The National Weather Service is predicting additional rains throughout the state later this week.