River Valley Flooding: One year later a look at the aftermath

Regional News

June 1st 2019, the Arkansas River at Van Buren crested at 40.79 ft.

RIVER VALLEY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — It’s been one year since the historic Arkansas River flooding, a natural disaster that left behind billions of dollars worth of damages.

June 1st 2019, the Arkansas River at Van Buren crested at 40.79 ft. making it a record high according to Chief Meteorologist Dan Skoff.

“Last year in the springtime, we had an extremely active weather pattern,” Skoff said. “It all was just basically a perfect storm, if you will, to create this historic flooding.”

A domino effect Skoff says started with a series of storms that brought a tremendous amount of rainfall across Southeast Colorado … Southcentral Kansas and Northeast Oklahoma.

“Which is exactly where the Arkansas River basin is located and that heavy rain over time, over several months including April into May is what the flooding was caused by.” 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the flooding killed five people.

Racking up around $3 billion in damages and impacting hundreds of people in Sebastian and Crawford County.

“Homes was the greatest loss here in Sebastian County,” Kendall Beam said.

Kendall Beam is the Emergency Management Director for Sebastian County.

He says the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA} granted in total more than $4 million to nearly 340 people who lost their homes.

“…Central City had home damage and Lavaca had home damage all the way up to the north end of the county,” Beam said.

Beam says a few county roads took a hit from the flooding — causing $174,000 worth of damages.

He says the county received about  $176,000 from FEMA’s public assistance grant.

“We set up a unified command system,” Beam said. “We had the city of Fort Smith, Lavaca, Central City all the areas on the south side of the river, all the fire departments,” Beam said.

In Crawford County, Emergency Management Director Brad Thomas says the county faced two problems: damaged farmlands and homes, and a sliding levee in the Yoestown area.

“Thankfully it never did breach, but not only did we have to prepare for just our normal flood plain water level rises, but we also had to plan to prepare for that slide,” Thomas said.

Thomas says in total FEMA granted around $347,000 for individual assistance. 

He says 30 people had their homes damaged many of them living in Dyer, Arkansas.

“There are seven or eight homes there that most of the homeowners – I think there’s one still down there, they’re still trying to do some repairs on their home, but the rest of them basically walked away from their homes,” Thomas said.

Thomas says right now the county has received $85,000 to fix up some roads. 

“We’re expecting more funding because we’ve done more repairs,” Thomas said.

Some changes were made as a result of the flooding. Beam says the county acquired a machine that fills 18 sandbags at once.

Thomas says he’s also stationed some equipment around the county so crews can respond to certain areas more quickly.

He also says the Army Corps of Engineers will be repairing the levee sometime this summer.

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