Storm pounds city with 4-5 inches of rain, wind

Wednesday, September 1, 2004
Bill Ball waits for his son, Jim Ball, to get the chain around the tree to pull the huge oak tree off Mike and Candis Hancocks' new pickup on Planer Hill. The accident occurred just after 1 p.m. Saturday as the Hancocks, visiting from Broken Arrow, Okla., were heading up the hill. They weren't hurt, but the windshield was cracked and there was damage to the front and side of the vehicle. The tree stood in Hazel Snider's yard at 120 South Main. Planer Hill was blocked about an hour. CCN / Kathryn Lucariello

Saturday's thunderstorm and its aftermath hit Eureka Springs pretty hard in some areas.

Three inches of rain in two hours was reported at the city's waste water treatment plant on Highway 23 North.

A resident of Mill Hollow Road reported a total of 4 1/2 inches in a rain gauge.

A resident of College St. reported a total of 5 inches.

The treatment plan "did well" in capturing and holding run-off water, according to operator D.J. Fox Monday morning.

"We have to report overflows of the plant to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ)," she said. "We reported we were able to contain 90 percent of what normally would have gone into the creek during a storm like that.

"The old tank we have deconstructed held a lot of the excess water. There are pipes in the bottom that allowed us to hold the water and recirculate it through the treatment process.

"We are able to use the sludge pump on the new sludge press to re-route water into the headworks for treatment. We are still doing that today. We are pretty proud this morning of what we were able to accomplish."

Fox said the water in Leatherwood Creek reached up to the outfall pipe from the plant. The pipe is normally 18 to 24 inches above the water level.

Lightning affected the plant's power, but Fox said the emergency generator took care of the situation.

When power goes out, several of the pumps have to be manually restarted.

"That is a safety feature," Fox said. "It keeps the pumps from burning up. We were lucky this happened during the day when we had people here."

Planer Hill/South Main Street was closed Saturday afternoon when a huge oak came crashing down, hitting a pickup truck and completely blocking the road for nearly an hour.

Visitors Mike and Candis Hancock of Broken Arrow, Okla., lived through the harrowing experience, unhurt but shaken.

They were on their way up Planer Hill about 1:15 p.m. when the huge oak tree in Hazel Snider's yard, at 120 South Main, came crashing down across the road.

The top of the tree cracked a corner of the windshield in their white pickup and did some damage to the driver's side front quarter panel.

Mike was driving.

"I saw it coming down," said Candis. "I said to my husband, 'Watch out! A tree is falling!'"

Mike pulled the pickup as far over to the right as he could, but not enough to escape damage.

The Hancocks were visiting Eureka Springs to celebrate their wedding anniversary and to attend the Bluegrass festival.

"We've been coming here for 15 years," said Candis. "But this is an anniversary we'll remember."

"That oak tree has been here ever since I've lived here," said Snider. "I've been here since 1972."

Judging from the trunk's size, the tree was probably about 75 years old, and had internal rot.

Transit Department employees Jim Ball and Bill Ball pulled the tree from the road with a chain attached to a pickup.

While the road was blocked, many visitors parked in the lot at the top of Planer Hill and walked downtown. Others went back up to Highway 62, seeking another way into the downtown area.

The road was opened again just after 2 p.m.

Gravel washed down from the gullies onto the Planer Hill road surface and other Main Street areas during and after the storm.

Jay Wilson, crew foreman for the Public Works Department, said the run-off ditch alongside Magnetic Road became "a river washing down logs and all sorts of debris."

He was near the intersection of Magnetic and North Main when he saw a surge of water send the creek alongside North Main out of its banks.

"I had never seen that before," he said. "I have seen water get up pretty high, but never go over the wall like that did."

He said the situation didn't last long.

He said crews made an extra effort to "get the boulders off Planer Hill so the Volkswagons could get over them."

The annual Volkswagon Parade was scheduled to start at 3 p.m.

Dan Collins, owner of K-Way Texaco at the top of Planer Hill, said he kept his shop open two and half hours after his usual noon closing time because people kept showing up with flats to be repaired.

Wilson said lightning shut down the telephones at public works, so messages were coordinated through the police department.

Lightning struck so close to the house at 3 Shelton Drive that it blew the outside telephone box off the wall and caused pin holes in a waterpipe inside the wall in the basement.

"Oddly enough, it didn't shut off the telephone service," he said. "The lady was able to call 911 for help. She was getting water into her basement from the pipe, but she didn't want the water shut off. It was going down a drain in the basement."

Lightning struck the base of a tree in the area behind the Holiday Inn Express. A man in the area reported seeing smoke above the trees for a few moments.

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