The Latest: Arkansas governor declares state of emergency
Associated Press•May 24, 2019
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Latest on tornadoes and flooding in the Midwest (all times local):
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has declared a state of emergency as the flood-swollen Arkansas River was scheduled to reach record levels next week.
Hutchinson issued the executive order Friday after having already directed the Arkansas National Guard to send high-water rescue teams to the western part of the state. The state of emergency suspends statutes regulating the actions the state and local governments take. The aim is to “render maximum assistance” to the state’s emergency management department.
National Weather Service hydrologists predict the Arkansas River will crest Sunday at Van Buren, near the state’s border with Oklahoma, at the record level of 41 feet (12 meters), 19 feet (6 meters) over flood stage. Further downstream, it was expected to crest Tuesday at Morrilton, 38 miles (61 kilometers) northwest of Little Rock, at a record 42 feet (13 meters), 12 feet (4 meters) above flood stage.
Flooding that has closed local roads has forced 15 elderly western Kansas residents to move temporarily from their assisted-living apartments.
Rush County Emergency Medical Services Director Dotti Schuckman said Friday that people in assisted-living apartments in LaCrosse were moved Thursday night to the local hospital, though some later moved back. LaCrosse is the county seat and a town of about 1,300 residents about 130 miles (209 kilometers) northwest of Wichita.
Schuckman said flooding occurred along Walnut Creek after receiving 4 inches of rain Thursday and as much as 9 inches of rain over the past 5 days.
The state reported that part of Kansas 96 west of Rush Center was closed Friday because of flooding. Schuckman said the highway, which is Rush County’s primary east-west traffic artery, had reopened but that multiple local roads remained closed.
Two people found in a submerged vehicle along the Mississippi River near St. Louis have been identified as a young man and woman who were reported missing on May 15.
The victims were found around 4 a.m. Friday in a vehicle on a flooded rural road that runs along the river at Portage Des Sioux, about 40 miles north of St. Louis.
Trooper Dallas Thompson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol says an autopsy determined that 20-year-old John Reinhardt and 19-year-old Caitlin Frangel, both of Hazelwood, Missouri, had drowned.
Thompson says authorities believe the vehicle became trapped after driving into the flooded area in the dark, and was unable to escape the water. He says it’s unclear when the vehicle drove onto the flooded roadway. That area of St. Charles County has been flooded for several days.
Authorities in suburban St. Louis are investigating after the bodies of two people, a man and a woman, were pulled from a car submerged in floodwater.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol says the bodies were discovered around 4 a.m. Friday in Portage Des Sioux, a small St. Charles County town on the Mississippi River. Autopsies were scheduled to determine the identities.
Authorities suspect it may be two young people who were reported missing on May 15. Investigators aren’t sure how long the vehicle had been in the water.
This version of the story corrects the date when they were reported missing to May 15 instead of Monday.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says the tornado that struck the Jefferson City area damaged an estimated 500 homes and buildings.
Parson’s office says roughly 300 buildings were inspected by a specialized team Friday. Of those, 78 were found unsafe. The team determined another 60 were unsafe in some areas.
Assessments will continue Saturday.
Roughly 14,000 buildings were without electricity Thursday after the tornado hit late Wednesday. That was down to about 4,150 as of Friday morning, and the governor’s office says electric service is expected to be completely restored Saturday.
The tornado was rated an EF-3 by the National Weather Service with winds of up to 160 miles per hour (257.48 kilometers per hour).
Missouri’s Special Olympics summer games have been canceled after a tornado damaged the organization’s headquarters in Jefferson City.
Special Olympics multi-media manager Brandon Schatsiek says the Wednesday night tornado blew out windows and doors, tore a hole in a roof and damaged training facilities at the Special Olympics headquarters.
The games were supposed to be played May 31 through June 2 in Springfield, and about 1,000 athletes and coaches had been expected to attend the volleyball, swimming and track-and-field events. But Special Olympics Board Chairman Gary Wilbers says it would have been too difficult for staff to organize them while dealing with damage to their Jefferson City headquarters.
Schatsiek say more than 100 people were helping to clean it up Friday.
The $16.5 million headquarters facility had opened last September.
The National Weather Service is investigating why a warning wasn’t issued for a small northeast Kansas town when a tornado hit the city.
The Kansas City Star reports that the EF1 tornado developed early Friday morning on the southwest side of Marysville and went through about 3:45 a.m. The twister was about 50 yards wide and produced winds of 105 mph.
No injuries were reported. A home suffered roof damage and a 3,000-gallon gasoline tank was tossed around.
National Weather Service meteorologist Bryan Baerg said sirens for the town of 3,300 people about 75 miles (121 kilometers) northwest of Topeka didn’t go off because no warning was issued.
He said the Weather Service is reviewing radar and other data to see what happened and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
Kansas officials are worrying about flooding as the number of communities facing problems grows.
Forty-six of the state’s 105 counties were covered by a disaster declaration first issued by Gov. Laura Kelly earlier this month. Allen County in southeast Kansas and Pawnee and Rush in western Kansas went on the list Friday.
In Rush County, Kansas 96 was closed west of Rush Center because of flooding. Portions of at least six other state highways were closed for the same reason.
The American Red Cross operated shelters in Erie in southeast Kansas and Salina in central Kansas.
State officials said flooding could push small wild animals and even deer or coyotes out of their habitats and into populated areas and advised people to avoid feeding them and to leave them alone.
Floodwaters from the Missouri River have topped a levee at Jefferson City and shut down some streets around the state Capitol as residents continue cleaning up from a powerful tornado.
The flooding Friday had been forecast following heavy rain throughout the Midwest earlier in the week. Yet it still caught some people by surprise, as it came on a hot sunny day. The city’s airport had already been evacuated, but other residents and workers drove precariously through flooded roads in north Jefferson City to escape the rising waters.
The Capitol building sits on a bluff on the south side of the river and is not in danger of flooding.
The tornado that struck just before midnight Wednesday also spared the Capitol but tore a three-mile path through the city.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has directed the Arkansas National Guard to send high-water rescue teams to the western part of the state in anticipation of what’s expected to be record flooding on the Arkansas River this weekend.
The governor said Friday that he directed the Guard to send two, 13-member rescue teams to western Arkansas by Saturday morning. Hutchinson says the team will follow the floodwaters as they move to the southeast through the state.
Hutchinson urged residents to follow instructions from local emergency officials, especially if an evacuation is ordered.
The Arkansas River is expected to crest at record levels in parts of the state because of a massive amount of water moving downstream from Oklahoma and Kansas.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Tulsa is increasing the amount of water being released from a dam as flooding continues along the Arkansas River in Oklahoma and moves into western Arkansas.
Following an aerial tour of the region Friday morning, Sen. James Lankford said the release from Keystone Dam is being increased from 215,000 cubic feet per second to 250,000 cfs to control the flooding that has followed days of violent storms and heavy rains blamed for at least seven deaths in Oklahoma, Missouri and Iowa.
Lankford said the dam is doing what it should in keeping the flooding “at a manageable level.”
As the water flows downstream, record flooding is predicted in western Arkansas where the river is expected to reach 41 feet (12.5 meters) by Sunday. That’s nearly 20 feet (6 meters) above flood stage and 3 feet (0.9 meters) above the previous record.
In Tulsa, the river was just above 22 feet (6.71 meters) Friday morning, four feet (1.22 meters) above flood stage.
A specialized task force says 11 structures were destroyed and 157 were damaged by a tornado that hit Jefferson City, Missouri.
Missouri Task Force 1 deployed to the state’s capital city after the tornado on Wednesday night. Members worked through a 3-square-mile area that took the brunt of the damage.
The State Emergency Management Agency activated the team at the request of the Jefferson City Fire Department. The team members include disaster search and rescue specialists, engineers, canines, paramedics and other specialists.
KRCG reports the teams found 1005 structures with no damage, 157 damaged structures, 55 failed structures and 11 structures completely destroyed.
About two dozen people were injured during the tornado, but no fatalities were reported.
Forecasters are predicting record flooding in western Arkansas in communities along the Arkansas River because of huge amounts of water headed downstream from Oklahoma and Kansas.
In Van Buren, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of Little Rock, the river is expected to reach 41 feet (12.5 meters) by Sunday. That’s nearly 20 feet (6 meters) above flood stage and 3 feet (0.9 meters) above the previous record of 38.1 feet (11.61 meters), set in 1945. Nearby Fort Smith is also expecting record flooding.
The river was at 32 feet on Friday morning, or just above major flood stage.
The weather service says “near catastrophic flooding” occurs at 37 feet (11 meters), and that the predicted river levels will create “an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation.”
Further downstream, forecasters expect major but not record flooding in Little Rock by June 1.
Residents affected by a powerful tornado in Missouri’s capital city now could have to withstand some hot weather without electricity to their homes.
Electricity provider Ameren Missouri said Friday that crews have been working around the clock to try to replace about 200 broken power poles in Jefferson City and Eldon and re-string the lines.
Ameren Missouri division director Chip Webb says it may be the end of Saturday before power is fully restored in Jefferson City. He says crews hope to have the power back on later Friday in Eldon, another central Missouri town hit by a tornado.
High temperatures are forecast in the mid-to-upper 80s both Friday and Saturday.
Webb says Ameren has been using drones to inspect the power lines, which goes more quickly than manual observations.
Categories: Extreme Flooding