The Arkansas River Valley is bracing for major flooding expected into next week.
Record crests are expected along the river, exceeding levels from the 1990 flood.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a State of Emergency in anticipation of flood conditions.
He directed Arkansas National Guard General Mark Berry to deploy 26 members of the Arkansas Guard in anticipation of the flooding. Two high-water-rescue teams will be stationed in western Arkansas by Saturday morning and will move southeast with the floodwaters.
More Guardsmen will be deployed as needed.
“We are preparing to deal with the record-breaking floodwaters that meteorologists and the Corps of Engineers are predicting for the coming days,” Gov. Hutchinson said.
He urged the public along the river to heed any evacuation orders that are issued.
Excessive rainfall in Oklahoma and Kansas days and weeks ago is flowing into the Arkansas River basis from the northwest. Weather conditions in the state of Arkansas’ midsection will actually be clear with temperatures into the 90s early in the week, with rainfall forecast Monday and Tuesday.
Farmers who work the Arkansas River’s fertile bottomlands were scrambling, moving equipment and livestock to higher ground; anticipating the rain-swollen, angrier side of the waterway.
With blue skies and sunshine overhead on Friday, Leslie Oats paused for a few moments to talk about his last 72 hours. Oats grows row crops and hay in Pope County and has been moving equipment around since Tuesday.
“Between the row crop and the hay operation, we probably have 60 man hours in pulling pumps and moving equipment to higher locations,” he said. “Then find out they upped (the river forecast) and then moving equipment to new locations. We’ve been at it for the third day.”
As a backdrop to the rush of equipment shuttling, an emerald meadow of horse-quality hay waited in the sunshine, ready for harvest.
“If we weren’t in this situation today, we’d probably be cutting,” he said. “It’s ready to cut, but it probably won’t happen because if the water gets as high as they say it might, it’ll be taken in.
“All we can do is pray that it will not get as high as they think it will,” he said. “This is the first nice hay weather we’ve had, and it’s beautiful hay weather the next few days, and we can’t cut. It’s not even raining and we get flooded out.”
Compared to the brute power and roar of thunderstorms and funnels that were all too common in the last few weeks, this disaster “will be quiet. It will just come in,” Oats said.
As hard as the scrambling might be, the next step is harder.
“Wait and watch. Not much else to do,” Kevin Lawson, Faulkner County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said on Friday.
“Cattle and equipment are moved. After it goes down then we can make decisions on what needs to be done,” he said.
Phil Sims, Pope County extension staff chair for the Division of Agriculture, said the Arkansas River at Russellville was not only expected to rise higher than it did during the flooding of 1990, but also “they’re predicting it to be higher than 1943.”
In addition to the immediate flooding, another impact of the high water the stoppage of river barge traffic.
“Barges are how we get our fertilizer,” he said. “We’re already behind in planting and now fertilizer has to be trucked in, which is a lot more expensive.”
Farmers aren’t the only ones affected. So too extension agents who plant crop plots to demonstrate management techniques.
“This flood and rain are killing me. All of my row crop demos are out the window,” Lawson said. “I am screaming the blues right now.”
Producers in the Arkansas River Valley aren’t alone with high-water woes.
“Calhoun County has been under water for about a month now!” said Jaret Rushing, Calhoun County extension chair for the Division of Agriculture. “The Ouachita River in Camden has not fallen below 26 feet – which is flood stage -- in about three to four weeks.
“Some of our producers have moved livestock out of lowland grounds, some have been boating in to check their cattle and some have been stranded,” he said. “We are finally seeing a recession of the floodwater, so hopefully within the next few days we will get some relief.”
The stage of the Arkansas at Dardanelle was 32.5 feet at 9 p.m. Friday. It will rise to near 44 feet by Tuesday morning.
The impact of the high water will flood commercial and industrial areas along the river in Dardanelle and Russellville. More than 7,000 acres of farmland will be flooded. Roadways near the river will be flooded, and water will back up into the Petit Jean River.
At 44 feet, serious flooding is expected and overtopping of the Dardanelle Drainage District Levee is possible.
The flood of record prior to completion of the flood control reservoirs in Oklahoma, and the Kerr-McClellan navigation system in Oklahoma and Arkansas, was 44.1 feet in May 1943.
The Arkansas River at Little Rock was at 14.5 feet at 9 p.m. Friday. Flood stage is 23 feet. The river will rise above flood stage by Monday afternoon and continue to rise to near 26.5 feet by Saturday, June 1.
Rebsamen Park Golf Course, Murray Park, and Riverfront Park will flood. Marine terminal and commercial facilities downstream of the Interstate 30 Bridge will be affected. Burns Park will be inundated.
At 26 feet, Fourche Dam Pike and the community south of the road begins flooding from backwater up Fourche Creek. Burns Park golf course will be partially flooded from backwater up Shillcutt Bayou.
The Ouachita River at Camden was at 30 feet at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Flood stage is 26 feet. The river will continue to fall to a stage of 29.1 feet by Sunday morning.
Arkansas 7 north of Camden is flooded, as is Sandy Beach Park in Camden and county roads north and east of Camden.