Highway 96 Near Lavaca Back Open; National Guard Opens Fort Chaffee Road For Detour

LAVACA (KFSM) — Flash flooding closed part of Highway 96 into Lavaca on Thursday morning (May 30), but it was reopened once the waters receded.

Highway 96 at South River Road north of Highway 22 was closed before 6 a.m., the police department announced in a Facebook post. A report at 7 a.m. said the road was back open, but another report less than an hour later announced the road was closed again.

Danny Straessle, public information officer for the Arkansas Department of Transportation, explained the conflicting reports as a “procedural error on our part.”

The initial map on iDriveArkansas.com showed the closed section to be longer than it was. When an attempt was made to correct the error, the system automatically generated an alert that the road was back open. In reality, the map was being corrected to show that only the section of Highway 96 from Highway 22 up three miles past South River Road was closed.

But later that morning, Chad Adams with ArDOT announced the highway was being reopened now that the waters receded.

Adams also said they were hoping the water would drop on U.S. 64 near Ozark so it can be reopened as well sometime Thursday. That happened just before noon, when the inside lanes each direction were reopened. The outside lanes were still closed.

Those coming from Charleston or Bloomer into Lavaca can still use Highway 22 and go up Highway 255 into Lavaca.

The closing of Highway 255 around Central City has made the journey from the west into Lavaca trickier.

To make it easier, the Arkansas National Guard has opened access to Fort Smith Boulevard through Fort Chaffee for people to reach Lavaca. Drivers take First Avenue south to Fort Smith Boulevard, then drive east on Fort Smith Boulevard to Highway 96. Drivers can then go north on Highway 96 into Lavaca.

The National Guard warns that Fort Smith Boulevard is a gravel road made for military vehicles, and vehicles with low clearance may find the road difficult to navigate in its current condition. The road’s speed limit is 25 miles per hour, and drivers are urged not to deviate from the route due to restricted access elsewhere on the base.

Melody Daniel, emergency manager for Arkansas, said the base would soon be hosting soldiers for their annual two-week training there, which means traffic will increase on roads already crowded from other roads closing.

Daniel urged drivers to use caution on and around the base, to adhere to the handsfree-only rule for cellphones on the base, and to be aware that there may be water on both sides of Fort Smith Boulevard. Because the base is still active and the water is high, Daniel urged drivers to stick with the detour route only.

“This is not the time to go sightseeing on Fort Chaffee,” she said.

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