Region 8 city teams up with USGS to improve flood warnings

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

HARDY, AR (KAIT) – Residents who live along the Spring River in Hardy said they'd like to have an early flood warning system installed before the end of summer. According to Mayor Nina Thornton, the city is working with the U.S. Geological Survey in Fayetteville to install three gauges at various points on the river. Thornton said the project, valued at $125,000, would give residents two additional hours to prepare for moderate to severe floods.

"South Fork is already in and it's almost operational, which is really good to hear because that's what we're after is to get those operational so that we can start using them," said Thornton.

Thornton said the USGS also plans to install a flood warning system at Myatt Creek, which could be complete by August.

"We don't want you out there when you don't need to be and they can't put canoes out there on certain stages," said Thornton. "We're going to be able to call them all in a matter of minutes where before we've had to drive along by their houses and let them know the water was coming up."

Dan Wagner, hydrologist with the Water Resources Division of USGS, said Tuesday the gauge at the Spring Street Bridge has helped officials check river stages, temperatures and other variables. He said several floods have damaged property and taken lives since 2006.

"They listen when we say water is coming up or USGS calls us or Little Rock calls us and lets us know," said Thornton. "We used to have to stand on the bank and watch it. I've done it myself."

Thornton said she wrote the appropriations bill for the project with the help of Congressman Marion Berry. She said the cost of each site is approximately $25,000 depending on the location.

"That will pay to put in three of these systems and pay for maintenance for one year. After the one year is up for maintenance, we'll have to figure out how we're going to maintain it," said Thornton.

Wagner said since Hardy is at the end of several large watersheds, the city would be better equipped to gather information to issue flood warnings with monitoring sites. The current gauge in Hardy uses compressed air to overcome water volume. USGS is also looking at radar systems and microwave systems. Wagner said the monitoring units can collect data every 15 minutes, beam it to a satellite and upload the information to an IP address.

Wagner said the best way to gauge how strong a flood will be is to check a river's discharge into another river.

"We were here packing up. The mayor had came down and told us that a flood is on the way and we had better get out and take what we want to keep," said Kay Roland. "We had a refrigerator here and we took it out of here and we brought it back after the flood, another flood warning came and we took everything again but not the refrigerator that time. The water took the refrigerator. The refrigerator is gone. The wood pile is gone."

Roland experienced a large flood on October 9, 2009. She put all of her belongings that weren't tied down in a trailer and hauled them off before the water got too high.

"That water is terrible, you know, it only takes a minute to lose your life when it comes down that fast and it comes up really quick. It's not a slow process at all. Just five minutes it's not here and ten minutes later, you are running," said Roland.

Roland said she moved to Hardy in 2006 and has been a victim of seven floods.

"Any warning system would help this town and anyone along the river," said Roland. "I was in the middle of the river. The water went all the way back to the railroad tracks. It was like, oh my God, what happened, and it was terrible."

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