Arkansas' drought-parched soil was soaking up rain from Isaac's leading edge early Thursday afternoon, but few in Arkansas are letting their guard down.

Arkansas’ drought-parched soil was soaking up rain from Isaac’s leading edge early Thursday afternoon, but few in Arkansas are letting their guard down.

Flash flood watches were posted for much of Arkansas through Friday night and the National Weather Service warned of isolated tornadoes and winds of 20-30 mph and gusts up to 40 mph.

In Union County, along the Louisiana border, “the rainfall, so far at 2 inches, is welcomed,” Robin Bridges, county extension staff chair, said just before lunchtime Thursday.

“County administrators have some concern about water on roads and possible low lying area flooding, but at present all water is soaking in and draining nicely,” Bridges said.

In Hot Springs and Bryant, city officials were giving away sandbags.

“The city made up 700 bags and they were gone in 45 minutes,” said Terry Payne, public information director for the City of Hot Springs. “And that was mostly word-of-mouth.”

The sandbags are meant to help downtown merchants, whose memories of the 1990 flooding are still sharp. That year, rainfall totals May 19-20 reached more than 10 inches at some stations. The heavy rain, coupled with the steep slopes and deep valleys in that part of the Ouachita Mountains, channeled 2-4 feet of water onto Central Avenue, home to the city’s historic bathhouses.

“The unique topography of the city means extreme vulnerability of downtown businesses to flooding,” she said. “We met more and planned out more for this.”

In northwest Arkansas, Washington County fair officials agreed on a disaster emergency plan should Isaac turn violent during this week’s fair run.

“All building supervisors have been alerted that when the emergency sirens go off, that all livestock barns are to be evacuated and people moved to any of the bathroom facilities or the main office building,” said Berni Kurz, Washington County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “We worked with Washington County Emergency Services to designate these safe areas.”

In Phillips County, where the rain started around mid-morning, farmers who pushed hard since the weekend to harvest what they could before the storm, were reluctantly giving in to the weather.

Robert Goodson, Phillips and Lee county extension agent for the U of A Division of Agriculture, said farmers were frustrated, “or maybe just ready for a short break.”

For more information on flood preparedness see: http://uaex.edu/news/pressroom/storm_recovery/BeAware_Flooding.pdf

Tornado preparedness tipsheet available:

http://uaex.edu/news/pressroom/storm_recovery/BeAware_Tornadoes.pdf

For updates on Isaac, visit http://arkansasdroughtresourcecenter.wordpress.com/.

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons without discrimination.

Mary Hightower is assistant director of communications/marketing at the Cooperative Extension Service, part of the U of A System Division of Agriculture.