On Saturday, Jan. 12, flash floods wreaked havoc on Blytheville drivers, who tried to navigate the high waters and find passable ways to get to their destination.
Public Works director Marvin Crawford blamed partially and fully blocked street drains that were unable to allow the water to escape for those few hours.
Crawford is looking at some debris-collecting equipment that he thinks might help avoid similar drainage problems, though the request must first go through the Streets and Drainage Committee.
He noted currently Public Works has no mechanical equipment to clean out the drains, which are clogged up in part because of folks dumping their grass clippings and leaves in them.
Crawford has a three-man crew assigned to the drainage system and three assigned to streets. The crew was onsite, cleaning out the drains during the recent flash flooding.
He noted the drainage crew manually removes debris now, attacking the biggest problem areas first, then moving from zone to zone. Crawford said if the street department gets a leaf vacuum machine to keep some of the leaves out of the drains and a Regenerative Air Sweeper, a drain cleaning machine, it would be easier and more economical.
"When it stops up, it takes money, manpower and hours to open it back up," Crawford said, noting the city is checking to see if it can use infrastructure tax funds to purchase the equipment.
At last week's Blytheville City Council meeting, Councilman R.L. Jones asked about a maintenance program, saying a prevention program would alleviate some of the drainage problem.
"Since the infrastructure money is available now, it looks like we can put people assigned to that, to go around town, to free up the wastewater crew," Jones said at the meeting.
"You've got to keep close attention on those streets, month by month, week by week," he added.
Councilman Stan Parks explained that there is a crew that cleans the drains.
Jones also asked for a maintenance schedule.
"They basically do it as an as-needed basis; in other words, they attack the worst spots that need addressed first," Crawford said. "Once that's completed, they assign themselves to a different area of town for a period of time until they complete that area and move to the next."
At last week's meeting, Councilman Tommy Abbott said he received calls commending Public Works for getting the recent flash flooding cleared up quickly.
"The work that his (Crawford's) guys have been doing in cleaning those ditches out down in our area, it used to flood so bad," Councilman John Musgraves said at the meeting. "He and I were talking about how that problem now has been solved."
"We had that rain come so fast and in such a short period of time," Musgraves added. "When something happens like that, that's just overwhelming to our pumping stations and systems."
Crawford said the drainage system is inundated with debris.
He asked that residents avoid putting grass clippings and leaves in the drains.
"I'm just estimating that probably about 65-70 percent of our drains are partially or completely blocked because of that problem," Crawford said. "I think it could have been reduced by 50 percent had we all done our part in regards to our clippings and our leaves."
He said once the drains are cleared, the crew can maintain a maintenance schedule.