BY LEANN DILBECK –
According to Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison, an usual July storm that rolled through the County last week on the evening of July 8 and early morning hours of July 9 caused major damage to county roads, bridges, vehicles, and communication equipment, debilitating the County’s 911 System until it was ultimately restored on Friday. The 911 calls were forced to be rerouted through Montgomery County until repairs were finalized three days later.
The storm delivered extraordinary lightning throughout the county. “Our communications tower, located at the Courthouse, was directly hit causing damage to radio consoles, 911 equipment, and internal telephone equipment. Then high straight-line winds caused an awning, that houses the veteran’s van, to break free from tie downs and strike a Sheriff’s vehicle and a dispatcher’s personal car.” Heavy rain started around 11 pm and continued through early morning hours. After the rain ended, measurements varied around the county with the highest totals from the Wickes area topping 10 inches, according to Ellison.
The Judge explained that the usual areas on steep grades or at the base of steep grades sustained some of the worst damage. “County roads situated off of Highway 8 West were severely damaged. Polk Roads 721, 121, 47, 48, 127, 119, and 41 were some of the affected roads. Polk 721 had a 6 foot in diameter drainage pipe partially washed out with tremendous gravel loss on much of the road. There were several bridge approaches washed and impassable. Almost every road in the county received some damage.”
On Polk 7, in the Wickes area, a 53-foot bridge was completely gone. “Not only was the deck gone but
some of the concrete piers were washed down the Rolling Fork. Downstream from there, other bridges received damage on Polk 6 and Polk 4. Polk 257 Northeast of Wickes was impassable due to a 5 foot diameter pipe placement being a total loss.”
Ellison added that while no storm is welcomed, the timing of the most recent one couldn’t have come at a worst time. “The road department is really under pressure right now. We had severe flooding just 2 months ago on May 8th, which we haven’t recovered from yet. We had the December 2013 ice storm and the May 31st, 2013 flood. All the while we are in the middle of some large projects. The South crew has a 9 mile rebuild/resurface project going in Hatfield and the north crew is working on an 11 mile project east of Mena. The crew is certainly responding well.
“We are working with our insurance company on our communication equipment. The road department has all but one route passable. That one route, Polk 7, will be closed for a good while. We have started the process to replace the bridge with a new concrete one.”