CONWAY COUNTY, Ark.– Conway County Emergency Management’s Director Johnathan Trafford said he called in the Army National Guard for help on day three of trying to stop or to slow a leaking drainage pipe that runs through a levee.
Trafford confirmed the choppers dropped about 20,000 pounds of sandbags on the AR River side of the portion of the levee off Highway 9 near Oates Road in the town of Oppelo.
He said the pipe usually drains water from the dry side of the levee into the side by the Arkansas River.
The AR River as of Tuesday afternoon was about halfway up that side of the levee.
Two days ago Trafford said the leak happened for an unknown reason which allowed the Arkansas River water to flow through the pipe that runs under the levee and into the agricultural fields towards Highway 9.
“There’s either been a malfunction at the flap gate on the riverside or a possible malfunction at the top of the pipe that’s allowing water to run back through the pipe,” he said.
Around 5p.m. Tuesday evening Trafford confirmed the leak would not be stopped despite three days of efforts and the county is moving towards getting pumps to try to pump the water on the dry side of the levee to the side where the AR River continues to rise.
We met Chase Taylor Tuesday afternoon as he worked at his uncle’s business Lentz Sand and Gravel Company.
“Them good old Blackhawks. There’s one right there,” he said as he stood on the levee about half a mile down from where the choppers took the sandbags.
His uncle’s business is where the choppers picked up the sandbags.
He described what’s on his mind as emergency management worked a third day on trying to stop or to slow the leak, “Praying that levees don’t fail. It’s kind of sad…sad.”
Fields flood by the pipe as the water from the AR River gets close to Highway 9 in the town of Oppelo.
Trafford said if the leak isn’t slowed or stopped then Highway 113S near the paper mill and Highway 9 will flood.
As the county switched plans Tuesday night to try to pump the water back over the levee in attempt to “try to buy time” before the flooding according to both the OEM director and County Judge Jimmy Hart.
Trafford said when it comes to the leak, “At no time during this operation are we worried that anyone is going to rush down or get washed down the Arkansas River or a loss of life or any other property damage.”
Taylor fears the worst for his friends that are farmers in the county.
“It’s just going to be heartbreaking for a lot of hard-working families out there… hardworking farmers. I got a lot of friends that are farmers,” Taylor said.
“We do at some time anticipate that possibly I-40 west of Morrilton at the Blackwell area is going underwater at some point,” Trafford said.
He said the levees in the county are actively being patrolled, and they do not anticipate a levee breach.
“We do not let me reiterate we do not anticipate a levee breach. We are actively patrolling,” he said.
He continued, “We have been reassured from the (Army) Corp (of Engineers) that at no time do they feel that our levees will be topped by water.”
“We want to try to keep our public as calm as we can and let them know we are working this flood event 24-7,” Trafford said.
“There are so many unknowns with this flood event because this is a 100-year flood event,” Trafford said.
He reiterates, “They (The Army Corp. of Engineers) don’t feel that at any time there is any danger of the levee breaking here in Oppelo bottoms.”
Residents of Conway County can pick up sandbags for free at the county’s road department located at 33 Southern Valley Drive.
As of Tuesday morning, there were about a dozen roads in the county flooded already.
The Conway County Judge Jimmy Hart said they need volunteers to help residents in the county prepare their homes with sandbags. Volunteers can contact the county judge’s office to assist.
Conway County Emergency Management encourage people to check iDrive for road closures as well as follow them on their Facebook page for the latest information.