Storm Brings Flooding to Clay County
Though Clay County and northeast Arkansas missed the brunt of Sunday's violent storms which brought deadly tornados through the central part of the state and into Oklahoma, heavy rainfall and strong winds did make an impact locally.
Reports throughout the county indicate rainfall ranging from four and one-half to seven inches fell during Sunday night's storm. While a tornado watch was in effect, no funnel clouds were recorded in the immediate region. Still, strong wind gusts of up to 80 mph were reported by the National Weather Service, but these were limited in scope and duration.
The biggest detriment to the area was flash flooding through the intense rainfall. Rivers and other waterways swelled as a result of the downpour, resulting in flooding at numerous locations. The St. Francis and Black Rivers topped their flood levels with water overflowing into neighboring streets, and in the worst cases, homes. The bulk of the residential flooding reports in the area have come from Corning, McDougal, St. Francis and Campbell, Mo. In Campbell, emergency crews were called in to assist residents in escaping the rising waters and relocating them to emergency shelters.
High waters in Piggott and Greenway resulted in the early morning closure of Highway 49 between the two cities on Monday. Fire crews from both communities were on the scene before dawn, as a large section of Highway 49 was underwater. The highway opened up by mid-morning, first to trucks and SUVs, before the water receded to neighboring fields and ditches, allowing regular traffic to resume.
Roads throughout the area remain affected by the flooding, even after water levels have dropped in most areas. Nearly every gravel road in the county has suffered damage as a result, with some lower-lying paved roads within towns having tiles damaged or knocked out by flooding. The loss of tiles, which allow water to intersect and drain under roadways, can result in the collapse of the street or roadway. Flood waters can hide the erosion of the roadway from drivers, making travel hazardous when high water is present.
Due to Clay County's extensive system of gravel roads, the effort to evaluate and identify each concern remained ongoing through Tuesday afternoon. Clay County Judge Gary Howell saw enough damage Monday afternoon to declare an emergency within the county, which has been issued to proper channels within the state to begin the process of qualifying the county for emergency federal funding.
"We're out checking all the roads, and there's not been one so far that hasn't been damaged," Howell said during inspections Monday morning. "We've got bridges washed out, and roads are falling through where tiles have been washed away. When we get that much rain in the amount of time we got it, you can basically pick out any gravel road and it'll be hurt by it."
Portions of Clay County remain under a flood warning, primarily those areas along the St. Francis and Black Rivers. The warning, as it currently stands, will continue into Thursday, dependent upon any additional rainfall.