Arkansas – December 2015 Flooding Worst in 25 Years

The US Geological Survey (USGS) say that the December 2015 flooding of Arkansas rivers was some of the worst seen since 1990.

Significant flood peaks occurred across the Arkansas, White and Red River Basins in Arkansas beginning on 26 December 2015 and the rivers are still high, according to USGS.

“The flooding that began Christmas weekend is the most extensive and severe flooding to strike some places, particularly the Arkansas River, since 1990,” said Jonathan Gillip, a USGS hydrologist in Arkansas. “Based on historical data, it appears that some of the most unusual floods, in terms of magnitude, occurred in the Arkansas River near Fort Smith, Dardanelle and Little Rock and its tributaries. This includes sites like the Fourche LaFave River near Gravelly and Flint Creek near Siloam Springs.”
The flooding followed heavy rainfall of up to 10 inches (over 25 cm) in northern and western Arkansas between 24 to 26 December 2015.

USGS say that water levels increased at some locations by as much as 40 feet (12 metres) over the duration of the flood event. More than 30 streamgages in Arkansas operated by the USGS experienced a “top 10” flood, meaning this flood event was one of the 10 highest flood events ever recorded at these streamgages. Most of these streamgages were located in the Arkansas and White River basins.

“Over the holiday, USGS field crews were out measuring historic flooding, some river sites were at levels we haven’t experienced in many years,” said Jaysson Funkhouser, a hydrologist with the USGS in Little Rock, Arkansas. “Preliminary calculations of the most extreme flood sites show that there’s only a 2 to 4 percent chance of exceeding this level of flooding in any given year (50 to 25 year floods).”

Arkansas Counties Affected

By 07 January 2016, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson had issued disaster declarations for 43 counties following the December 2015 floods that caused widespread damage.

Those counties include: Baxter, Benton, Boone, Bradley, Calhoun, Carroll, Chicot, Clay, Crawford, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Faulkner, Franklin, Greene, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Lee, Little River, Logan, Madison, Marion, Mississippi, Montgomery, Monroe, Ouachita, Perry, Pike, Polk, Randolph, Scott, Searcy, Sebastian, Sevier, Stone, Washington, White, Woodruff, and Yell.

Counties in Arkansas affected by flooding during December 2015. Image: Arkansas Department of Emergency Management
Counties in Arkansas affected by flooding during December 2015. Image: Arkansas Department of Emergency Management

Missouri, Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama

The period of severe weather affected other states, in particular Missouri, where 15 people died and 7,000 homes were flooded around the St Louis area. Floods also affected parts of Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama, where the governor recently requested federal aid to help repair flood damaged infrastructure.

Photos of the Arkansas Floods, December 2015

All photos below are courtesy of LTC Joel Lynch, Arkansas National Guard, and were take above the Arkansas River from Pine Bluff to Conway on 30 December 2015.