Washington County prepares for swift water rescues, evacuations


Washington County had multiple swift water rescues last weekend, and with the heavy rain we're seeing there is likely to be more in the next few days.

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA) — Washington County had multiple swift water rescues last weekend, and with the heavy rain we’re seeing there is likely to be more in the next few days.

“It’s scary. A lot of people won’t admit it, but it’s scary in the moment,” said Shane Wood, the rescue manager for the Washington County Urban Search and Rescue team.

After 18 years of doing water rescues, there’s not a lot Wood hasn’t seen.

“Before we were able to get there, they washed away,” he said. “That’s happened a few times.”

He even recalls Fayetteville High School’s prom night in 2017.

Wood said, “We responded to probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 rescues in that one night.”

During severe weather, he said a lot of people are set in their ways on the roads they take—even if they’re undrivable.

“They’ll risk it and try to drive through the water to avoid taking a different route that might take them a few more minutes,” he said.

Making this decision puts people’s lives on the line, not just those in the car.

“Not even us trying to get into the water to rescue them, the drive getting there is dangerous,” Wood said. “Storming, raining, whatever’s going on with the weather; the fact that we’re trying to get there in a hurry, a lot of emergency vehicle accidents happen on the way to a call, or just us being on the side of the road in the process.”

Wood points to the Johnson Switch community as one of the most notorious areas for flooding.

Joseph Seyeoth, a resident in the area, said, “All the weather picked up pretty hard and it started to fill the cul-de-sac and filled the backyards.”

The body of water just across the railroad tracks has Seyeoth and his wife Stephanie preparing for the worst.

He said, “We picked everything up off the floor, unplugged appliances, anything that was important came out. We bought lag screws and waterproof tape and like 20 sandbags…we’re getting ready to just seal everything.”

His family is prepared to evacuate, as they were told to.

“You know, nature is nature,” Seyeoth said. “It’s going to do what it’s going to do but it’s hard to start all over again when you don’t have much in the first place.”

Despite the unpredictability of everything, Wood said it’s all to help people in neighborhoods like this one.

“It’s something that we like to do. I mean everyone that’s on the rescue team, they’re on it because they want to help people,” he said.

Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley will be under a flash flood watch until 7 a.m., Friday morning.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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