It’s been two weekends in a row of record rain in Union County, with the most recent round breaking a previous record for daily rainfall in El Dorado.
On Saturday, a round of severe storms rolled through the region and, while Union County escaped the large hail and tornadoes that struck elsewhere in the south, high winds and torrential rain quickly flooded the area.
According to the National Weather Service office in Shreveport, Louisiana, the amount of rain that fell Saturday in El Dorado broke a record for daily totals with 3.24 inches falling, the highest daily total since records began being kept in 1930. The previous record for daily rainfall in El Dorado was 1.99 inches in 1968.
Record rain also fell in Monroe, Louisiana, and Tyler, Texas, on Saturday, according to the weather service.
In Huttig, members of the Huttig Fire Department spent much of Saturday clearing trees from roads and dealing with flooded locations. According to social media posts, a live power line was brought down with a tree by a pavilion at the park on Cypress Street and several streets had to be closed due to flooding.
Late Saturday afternoon, Union County Judge Mike Loftin posted on Facebook that “all of the low lying areas in the County are flooded,” adding that it was impossible to barricade every flooded road and reminding people to stay home if at all possible and, if it wasn’t, to travel with extreme caution. He also thanked road department employees who have had to deal with flood waters and downed trees two weekends in a row.
Loftin did not return calls for comment Monday.
Felsenthal Mayor Linda Newbury said Monday that the area was doing pretty well, considering the amount of rain in the last couple of weeks. Felsenthal sits near the Ouachita River and has a history of flooding. Newbury said the bridge on Dollar Junction Road – one of the two main ways out of town – was not under water, but a portion of the road still was on Monday afternoon.
The Ouachita River is expected to rise, she said, and with more rain on the way, Newbury said it’s hard to know what to expect.
“Right now, we’re faring fairly well,” Newbury said, noting that she had no reports of downed trees in the area. “If we don’t get too much more rise out of this water, we should be alright.”
She said area residents pretty much know that if they can see the yellow line on Dollar Junction Road, most vehicles, such as pickup trucks, can get through, but not lower sitting, compact cars. She warned residents not to try to get through the area if the line was not visible, as it’s impossible to know what is under the water.
“You never know what happens underneath the water,” she said. “The road could be undercut somehow or another and then you’ve got a big pothole and then what do you do? You’re kind of stuck.”
Newbury noted that Felsenthal does have an emergency storm siren, but it can only be activated on site, meaning a city employee must brave the bad weather and flooding in order to activate the siren. She said they have applied for a grant that would allow for secure phone-in service, enabling the designated employee to activate the siren without having to be on site.
“Saturday night really enforced the need in this town to have a phone-in service on that siren,” Newbury said.
She said they are expecting to hear whether they’ve been awarded the grant fairly soon.
Although many have likely had their fill, more rain is expected this week as a new cold front approaches the area late Wednesday.
According to the weather service, Union County is under a slight risk of severe weather as thunderstorms return that afternoon and into Thursday morning, with a few expected to be strong or severe. With the heavy rain, it’s likely more flooding is on the way, though the weather service is warning of a renewed risk for hail, high winds and tornadoes.
If the upcoming rain floods area streets like it did on Saturday, all motorists should try to stay home if possible. Some roads in El Dorado, such as North West Avenue near West Grove Street, flooded to the point where it looked like a small lake, but motorists could be seen driving through the flooded area throughout the afternoon.
And Timmins Hardware, located on West 5th Street, posted on Facebook that staff had found a vehicle’s front end floating down 5th Street on Saturday.
Madeleine Leroux can be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.