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Sandbags Hold Back Flood Danger in Arkansas

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

DES ARC, Ark. (AP) -- Sandbagging shored up a weakened levee along the White River on Tuesday and relieved a threat that it would fail as a major flood crest moved down the waterway, emergency management officials said.

Although the rural levee was leaking in spots, it was holding and officials told residents it was safe to stay in Des Arc, after urging them to evacuate earlier in the day.

"We're just kind of monitoring the water right now. As far as we know from the Corps of Engineers, it's safe to stay," said Prairie County Sheriff Gary Burnett.

Tommy Jackson, a spokesman for the state Department of Emergency Management, had said he didn't know how many people lived in the area that could be affected if the levee were to fail in central Arkansas.

Elsewhere in Arkansas, teams of state and federal officials were preparing Tuesday to examine flood-damaged buildings and businesses.

Bob Alvey, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he expected nine teams to spread across counties in northwest Arkansas first, then move to Arkansas' prairie, where the White River is threatening communities.

"We're hitting areas we can get to because a lot of areas we can't get to," Alvey said Tuesday morning. State and federal officials planned an afternoon news conference Tuesday to provide an update on damages.

The White River swelled after last week's storms that devastated large parts of the Midwest. The river had risen about 7 feet in four days at Des Arc and was expected to crest Tuesday afternoon at 33.5 feet, the National Weather Service estimated.

On Monday, water poured into Bayou Des Arc, an area just north of the town of 1,900, damaging scattered homes and cabins.

"It's the worst," Trey Newby, 17, said as he piloted a small boat with an outboard motor through the brown water in an RV park along Bayou Des Arc.

Downtown Des Arc is on a rise and was not in immediate danger.

Last week's torrential rain also caused flooding in parts of Ohio, Indiana and southern Illinois, and in wide areas of Missouri. At least 17 deaths have been linked to the weather.

Although wide areas of Missouri were especially hard-hit, the city of Cape Girardeau, which had record flooding in 1993, narrowly escaped serious problems this time. The Mississippi River crested there early Monday at 41.04 feet, a foot shy of the level that causes serious flooding, the Weather Service said.

Flood gates protecting the city's business district were closed Monday and will stay closed until the river drops to below 36 feet. There was some minor flooding Monday in Cape Girardeau's northeast section.

River towns south of the point where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet at Cairo, Ill., could see flooding in the next few days.

The Mississippi River is expected to crest Thursday at 42 feet at New Madrid, Mo., an hour south of Cape Girardeau, and at 41 feet Friday in Caruthersville, Mo., enough to cause moderate flooding in both areas, meteorologists said. The river was already at 38.4 feet Monday - more than 6 feet above flood stage - at Caruthersville, Coast Guard spokesman Dan Norton said.

Farther downstream, the Mississippi River is expected to top flood stage of 43 feet Wednesday at Vicksburg, Miss., and continue up to a crest of 46 feet on April 4, the weather service said.

On April 5, the river is likely to crest at 53.5 feet at Natchez, Miss. When the river reaches 50 feet there, water will reach a street in the historic Natchez-Under-the-Hill section, Natchez City Engineer David Gardner said. The last time water reached Silver Street was in 2003.


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