High water likely to soak Arkansas for weeks

CLARENDON, Ark. — Arkansans sandbagged their front doors and pumped out their flooded basements Wednesday as a historic crest on the White River moved downstream, and a flooding expert said the state will have to deal with high water for weeks.

Residents and county officials along the river’s path in east-central Arkansas worried that the river flows would hit an already swollen Mississippi River on the state’s eastern border and flow back into their cotton and wheat fields.

“I don’t think anybody knows how much higher it’s going to get,” Monroe County resident Marlin Reeves said as overcast skies threatened rain. Forecasters predicted a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms hitting the Arkansas prairie by Friday.

Heavy rains filled major rivers in northern Arkansas early last week, flooding communities as the water moved downstream. Two people remain missing after the storms, and 39 counties — more than half the state — were declared disaster areas.

National Weather Service hydrologist Steve Bays said high water will continue to threaten communities in Arkansas for weeks.

The weather service expected the White River to crest over the weekend at 33.5 feet, 7 1/2 feet above flood stage and more than a foot higher than it was Wednesday afternoon.

But water will remain on some roads and highways and in some homes into mid-April, as well as cover cropland into May or beyond, Bays said.

“The river’s going to be out of its banks for a prolonged period of time,” Bays said.

Recent heavy rains also flooded parts of Ohio, Indiana, southern Illinois and wide areas of Missouri. The weather has been linked to at least 17 deaths.

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