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WATCH | Heavy rainfall leads to water rescues, road closures

by David Showers, Lance Brownfield | May 12, 2023 at 4:05 a.m.
The Hot Springs Fire Department's swift water rescue team deploys at Bryant Place, where the swollen South Fork of the Saline River had trapped people in their homes. - Photo by Lance Brownfield of The Sentinel-Record

Heavy rainfall overnight and into the morning on Thursday resulted in water rescues in the north part of the county, widespread road closures, including Airport Road, and prompted the Northwoods Trails system to close until water levels receded.

The Garland County Department of Emergency Management said high water made several roads impassable, including parts of Hughes Road and the 1300 block of Treasure Isle Road. DEM Director Bo Robertson said the Piney and Fountain Lake fire departments responded to three vehicles stuck in high water on West Glazypeau Road.

"Piney was able to get their tanker unit to the people," he said early Thursday afternoon. "The vehicles are still in the water, but the people are safe."

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Fountain Lake firefighters left that scene to go to Bryant Place, where the swollen South Fork of the Saline River had trapped people in their homes. Robertson credited the Hot Springs Fire Department for its quick response. Its swift water team was on the scene within 20 minutes and helped residents in the 100 block of the private, dead-end road off of Highway 7 north get to higher ground.

"That was really well done by (Fire Marshal) Tom Braughton," Robertson said.

Some residents had to stand on a table in a barn to get above the rising water, according to information dispatchers put into the county's computer-aided dispatch system.

"This is normal for us," said Shawn and Alyssa, who declined to give their last name and identified themselves as the neighbors of a person rescued on Bryant Place on Thursday. "I don't know why they made a big deal out of it."

"The bank on their side is getting closer and closer, and I guess it just gave," said Shawn.

"At least it's going down as quickly as it floods," said Alyssa.

Alyssa said they were stuck in a little barn, which was OK for the time being, but not if more rain comes.

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Airport Road in the 500 block, around Hot Springs Memorial Field, was shut down around 9 a.m. Thursday due to deep water in the roadway.

According to a post by the Northwoods on the trails conditions Facebook page, "We received 5 inches of rain overnight and an additional inch since checking this morning. The creek crossings are high and swift. There is water flooding Pineland Drive into the Waterworks Trailhead. Please respect the trail closures."

The post said that once the rain stops "the water will drop quickly and we will be able to reopen."

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The National Weather Service included Garland County in a flash flood warning that was extended until noon on Thursday.

At 8:55 a.m., Doppler radar indicated thunderstorms producing heavy rain across the warned area. Between 2 and 4 inches of rain have fallen. Additional rainfall amounts of 1 to 2 inches are possible in the warned area, the Weather Service said.

Robertson said Bull Bayou was close to spilling over the Blacksnake Road bridge at about noon.

"It's as high as I've ever seen it," he said. "The water is a few feet from the bridge."

By midafternoon, the county road department was working to clear a landslide that obstructed Promise Land Drive.

Robertson credited the department for its mitigation work on Deerpark Road. The South Fork of the Saline River would wash out parts of the road, but it was still intact after water rushed over it Thursday.

Large rocks the road department placed alongside the road and new, big culverts now keep the road intact.

"The asphalt is in fine shape," Robertson said. "(Director) Tony Breshears and the road department did a great job fixing it."

He said the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift at the county's 911 Communications Center had a busy morning answering 911 calls and relaying the information to first responders.

"They got it handed to them," Robertson said. "Lots of 911 calls and coordinating with our first responders. We had multiple departments on single calls. They do such a remarkable job in there of managing chaos. It never ceases to amaze me how well they can handle that chaos."

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  photo  Hot Springs police units block the 500 block of Airport Road Thursday morning after heavy rainfall overnight caused the roadway to flood. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record
  photo  Ducks enjoy the wet weather along the Hot Springs Greenway Trail Thursday morning. - Photo by Lance Porter of The Sentinel-Record
  photo  Water rushes from a storm drain along Hot Springs Creek on Thursday. Garland County was under a flash flood warning for most of the morning following heavy overnight rainfall. - Photo by Lance Porter of The Sentinel-Record
  photo  Businesses in the 4000 block of Arkansas Highway 7 north were drying out Thursday morning after flood waters infiltrated the storefronts and some vehicles in the parking lot. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record

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