How The City Of Fort Smith Handles Flooding

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FORT SMITH (KFSM)-Harold Gilbert is one of many residents taking advantage of free sandbags being distributed by the city at the Streets and Traffic Department on 3900 Kelley Highway.

“I've got a water problem that's seeping into my air conditioning vent that seeps into the air ducts,” he said.

The sandbags are meant to block doorways, drains and other openings where water can get in.

“Over the weekend we had crews out unclogging drains and taking care of areas that were flooding,” Director Greg Riley, Fort Smith Streets Department said.

He said while the Arkansas River has started to recede, more rain could pose more problems.

“If we did have a really, really big storm in town, we could have some issues because of the river being up, it makes it harder for the water to get out of here,” Riley said.

City officials said the storm drains are functioning, despite some concerns.

“It's just an old system,” Riley said. “It was built 100 years ago, not designed very well for that type of storm. To replace it now would cost millions of dollars that the city doesn't have the budget to replace.”

Gilbert told 5NEWS he thinks the city is doing their best.

“Since they opened up these gates, they know how to let that water out,” he said. “They are prepared the City of Fort Smith and the Corps of Engineers.

While the city’s streets department focuses on problem areas, the Fort Smith Fire Department is focused on public safety.

“The best advice that we can give is stay out of flood waters,” Chief Mike Richards said. “Even the firefighter that was killed in Claremore over the weekend, when you look at the picture of the drainage ditch that he actually was overcome and drowned in, we`ve got those type of drainage ditches all over town, and it`s just a classic example of how dangerous these things can be, so stay out of them.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the Arkansas River is expected to be at flood state until at least the end of the month.