With rising waters in Arkansas, officials are warning travelers to be careful over Memorial Day weekend
Record or near record crests are expected in several places along the Arkansas River over the next several days.
Water has been rising to flood levels due to the heavy rains in Oklahoma since Thursday in Fort Smith and Van Buren, and it is expected to crest at 41.9 feet at Van Buren on Monday. According to the National Weather Service’s website, the Arkansas River causes “near catastrophic flooding” at 37 feet. This means homes, businesses and roads could be in danger.
The river has never reached this level, with the previous record of 38.1 feet set on April 16, 1945, expected to be shattered. Fort Smith has already begun preparing, and the county judge in Sebastian County has declared a state of emergency. Game and Fish Commission officials are warning people to stay off the river this Memorial Day weekend.
Fort Smith and Van Buren are not the only places seeing flooding issues. The Arkansas River is expected to reach 44 feet on Tuesday in Dardanelle, four feet over major flood stage. Predictions have the river reaching 25.2 feet in Little Rock by Tuesday, which falls into moderate flood stage. In Muskogee, Okla., the river jumped to 42.5 feet on Thursday, eight and a half feet over major flood stage in the area.
Another threat came from two barges that broke loose from the Port of Muskogee on Wednesday night, crashing into a dam at Webber Falls some 20 miles down from the port. They are currently blocking three of the 18 gates of the dam, not expected to affect operation.
More roads and businesses may be closed in the coming days, and many towns have begun to lay sandbags to help protect their properties.