River Valley Flooding: One year later – Aid money prevented worse situation, Sebastian County officials say


FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Around this time last year, significant flooding pounded the River Valley. Monetary aid helped prevent a worse catastrophe, officials said, and emergency managers are more prepared to deal with similar situations should they arise.

“Looking at the historical flood, we know where we’ve been and how we can overcome it,” said Travis Cooper, a Sebastian County emergency manager. “So, we hope not to do it again, but we feel that we’re prepared and ready for the next one.”

Cooper said he’ll never forget the floodwaters that swept through Arkansas’ River Valley last summer.

“Just knowing of how people were hurting, how people were without their home or without a place of comfort [stuck out to me],” Cooper said.

The days were long for those tasked with saving lives.

“We started around 5, 6 a.m. and we went all the way into the late evening hours,” Cooper said. “It was nothing to get 16 hours of work time in.”

Looking back a year later, Cooper said he and his crew are more prepared if major flooding hits the area again.

“We’ve actually incorporated some training to initiate how we can actually rescue someone appropriately,” Cooper said. “We’ve had several meetings and planning opportunities so that we can make sure that networking is there, that we know the capabilities of one agency to the next.”

Mayor George McGill of Fort Smith said there’s only so much people can do to combat historic natural feats. Yet, he said personnel in the area stepped up to the challenge.

“When I take a step back and do an assessment of how well we managed the 2019 flood, we did pretty good,” McGill said.

There’s always room for improvement, McGill said, but he’s proud of how agencies at every level responded. He’s thankful for aid given by private sources and FEMA.

“We had pump stations damaged and other infrastructure that was damaged by the flood, so those FEMA dollars would go to replace those items and help with mitigation,” McGill said.

Cooper noted that without aid, there may be fewer sighs of relief a year after the fact.

“You’re looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars spending on food, of spending on resources, on staff, of just getting personnel and your vehicles, if you have some,” Cooper said.

Most Sebastian County homeowners are no longer knee deep in high water, Cooper said.

“We still have multiple families that’re still in need of things, but most of the families have recovered and are back at homes or found other homes to get back to the forward motion,” Cooper said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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