OREGON COUNTY -- Oregon County Presiding Commissioner Leo Warren and Oregon County Emergency Management Director Eric King announced March 19 that President Bush has named Oregon County as one of 70 county's in the state declared a federal disaster area.
This comes after rain in excess of 10 inches fell in many parts of the county last year. Although the city of Thayer reported only 7 inches some other areas reported 12 to 14 inches of rainfall last Tuesday and Wednesday.
Northern District Commissioner Buddy Wright said all of the rural roads in the northern part of the county were damaged.
"Thomasville was probably our hardest hit area. The Eleven Point River which flows right through that community just could not contain that much water," Wright said.
King said, "The USGS said the Eleven Point River at Riverton rose 16 feet in a 24 hour period."
Sandy Willliams who lives on County Road 202 was stranded in her house for two days due to water run-off from the Piney Creek. She visited with the Commission March 21 asking for a bridge in her community. She told the commissioners in 11 years this has happened twice. "Around the Piney Creek area, it was just as bad as I have ever seen," Wright said.
Southern District Commissioner John Wrenfrow said all of his rural roads were damaged also.
"Frederick Creek was up. Our roads are in bad shape," Wrenfrow said.
As of last Friday, Highways 19 and 142 in the county were still closed due to water run-off in low spots in those areas.
"The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be in our office March 29. We have been instructed by them to take pictures and keep records. Right now we are spot patching to make the roads passable. We will go back and fix them correctly," Warren said.
"People are just going to have to be patient with us. Federal disaster aid has been made available for us. We are going to have to access how much damage has occurred," he said.
Warren said both Wright and Wrenfrow and their road crews are very experienced. "They will get these roads back in shape as quickly as possible," Warren said.
"In an emergency of this magnitude is when you realize we are really going to miss Commissioner Wright and the experience he has." Warren said.
Wright is retiring from his position as northern district commissioner after 18 years at the end of his term this year.
As of March 18 the Eleven Point Ranger District which includes portions of the Mark Twain National Forest is closed due to flooding.
All recreation areas on the Eleven Point River are also closed.
Charlotte Wiggins with the Forest Service said, "The full scale of the damage caused by newly-set historic flood record levels is still being accessed."
The city of Thayer had troubles of their own during the heavy rain.
Police Chief Frank Bernard said nearly all the streets in the city were flooded at one time. "Sunset, Green, South 9th, Gilbert, Brewer Streets and Industrial Park Road were all impassable," he said.
Bernard said officer Michael Bunting had to carry an unidentified woman to safety March 18 due to rising water near her home on Gilbert Street.
Bernard said Fun and Friends Senior Citizen Center on Chestnut Street, the Oregon County Ambulance Base and the city electrical shed, both on Front Street, were all flooded. The senior center remained closed all week.
"We were very lucky there were no injuries or even deaths. There is a lot of water damage," Bernard said.
Bernard said his officers assisted city workers by putting up barriers along the Warm Fork River. "We had officers out monitoring all streets and making sure our residents were safe," he said. He said the aldermen and the mayor assisted in these efforts also.
Mammoth Spring seemed to fair a little bit better than Thayer, although Fulton County Judge Charles Willet announced March 21 that Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe has declared Fulton and some surrounding counties as disaster areas.
"We had several streets flooded in Mammoth Spring. Hinson Street, portions of North 6th Street flooded, mostly just where low spots were," said City Water Manager Greg Kirkpatrick.
He said the sewer in the city overflowed, but it was quickly cleaned up and did not hurt the city water supply.
"Part of the city water treatment plant flooded and some of the businesses on the south side of town had some water in their stores. We had three low water crossings blocked off because they had water over them," Kirkpatrick said. He added that water run-off has carried a lot of debris into some culverts in the city and they are working to clean them out.
Oregon County Sheriff Tim Ward said although there was a great amount of damage to the area, he is thankful no one was injured and no one died as a result of the flooding.