Never seen it like this

Friday, April 18, 2008

Jody Shackelford

Staff Writer

"Rain, rain go away. Come again some other day." Come again it did April 10 bringing 3.4 inches of rain in a matter of hours, according to the National Weather Service, jeopardizing lives and reversing the progress of previous flood damage to county roads.

Torrential rains fell, spilling creeks and rivers over their banks for the second time in a month. Fulton County, already dealing with previous flood damage to roads and homes, found itself under water and over saturated.

With creeks rising quickly, several county travelers found themselves in difficult situations but according to Camp Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Butch Bologna, the intensity of a situation on Pleasant Valley Road was more dire than any other April 10.

Jim Carl of Camp was attempting to cross a low water bridge on Pleasant Valley Road when he and his minivan were swept away by the fast moving water.

Carl was able to contact 9-1-1 and Camp Fire Department responded. According to Bologna, Richard Navarro, while responding to the call, became stranded in the high water but was freed by Camp Fire Chief John Davis.

Continuing to the scene, Davis, Navarro and first responder, Pat O'brien arrived to see Carl surrounded by the swift water, nearly fully submerged and still in his vehicle.

According to Bologna, Davis was able to tie Carl to a lifeline and instructed him to exit the vehicle. Then Carl was overtaken by the current and pulled underwater. Connecting himself to the lifeline, Davis was able to jump in and free Carl and bring him to the surface while both men were being swept down stream.

O'brien grabbed the lifeline and was also pulled into the current while Navarro fought to anchor all three men. Once anchored securely, the rescue team and Carl were able to reach high ground.

"A man's life was at stake and we had to act," Davis said about the rescue.

According to Bologna, the other calls April 10 were not as perilous but each outcome was also positive.

The same powerful waters threatening motorist were also thrashing roadways with round two of massive surface erosion.

"We probably have twice as much damage as we did in the March 17-18 rain. Right now, we are facing a situation where every road in our county has major damage," Fulton County Judge Charles Willett said. "We know everyone needs to get in and out, but we are so limited on equipment and manpower, it is just going to take time."

"This is going to take lots and lots of time. We are going to start rebuilding roads. We have been spotting through to get the roads open," he said.

With the compounding damage Willett said help is on the way.

"There will be two people from FEMA who are supposed to be in our county April 15 and one guy is supposed to stay permanently for quite a while. He will help take care of our damage control," he said.

Fulton County has over 2,000 miles of 596 roads already suffering while the new rain has reopened old wounds and caused more countywide havoc, according to Willett.

"This time we lost a lot of bridges. One at Saddle and one like we had on Whippoorwill Road on the Bexar Road," he said.

The bridge at Bear Creek on Highway 223 south near Viola suffered major damage and is currently closed. Individuals that wish to travel through must seek alternate routes. According to the Arkansas Highway Department, the solution to the damage is in discussion and how long the highway will remain closed is unknown.

"There are just a lot of big washouts. Again, and I want everyone to understand, we know, and I appreciate everyone's calls, but our county is devastated, it is tore up. If you can get in and out that is a plus. We will be around to work on everyone's roads," Willett said.

"Heart Road Bridge is gone down by Saddle. Bexar Road has major damage and we have estimates that we have over 100 concrete slabs that we are going to have to replace, re-pour where they busted and took half of them out. The water has to go down before we can get started on a lot of them," Willett said.

The Fulton County Road Department is stretched to its limit and working six, 10-hour days while the damage bill keeps growing, according to Willett.

"Total damages together with the March 17-18 rain plus the last few rains and this rain we just had, it will probably put us over $4.5 million," he said.

With the new increased cost estimate, Willet said that the county does not have to file a new declaration for federal and state funding. The newly incurred costs will be included in the first filing. "It is a plus we don't have to keep this all separated from the first damages," Willett said.

The countywide massacre of the road system affects every citizen of Fulton County while the residents of Mammoth Spring have additional flood problems.

"I talked to Mammoth Spring Mayor Jean Pace and she said she hasn't seen anything like it while she has been mayor," Willet said. Mammoth Spring Main Street was overwhelmed with water rushing toward the river while it cut through businesses and structures.

The roads weren't the only travel surfaces damaged by the flooding. Salem City Park is also in need of repair.

"We had some damage to the spillway and damage to the walkway," Salem Mayor Gary Clayton said. "We will be getting it repaired as soon as we can get it worked in."

Clayton said there is residual damage at the Salem City Park from the first flood although the April 10 flood drove the nail home.

"Part of the damage happened in the first big rain. It was a little more probably in the second one," Clayton said.

The city had started repair work from the first flood but the second rain sent the project into a regression, according to Clayton. "Just the tremendous capacity of water that came into that thing caused the spillway to harshly break," he said.

Clayton said the water washed out the bridges on the walking track on the west end of the park. The city plans to do the repair work and looks forward to cost reimbursement from the government although talks with FEMA have left Clayton unsure, he said. "I am not sure about that or not. As of right now we are just fixing it ourselves," Clayton said.

"I have talked to people who have lived in Fulton County 60-70 years and they say this is just the most devastating thing they have ever seen happen to the county, a disaster like this," Willett said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: