In central US, levee breaches flood some communities

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JAKE SHANE/Quincy Herald-Whig

This aerial photo shows Clemens Field in Hannibal, Mo., on May 31, 2019. About 200 Illinois National Guard members have been deployed along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers to assist with flood and levee monitoring.

HANNAH GRABENSTEIN, Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Crews were making a “last ditch effort” on Saturday to save low-lying parts of a small Arkansas city from floodwaters pouring through a breached levee. Downstream, authorities were warning people to leave a neighborhood that sits across the swollen river from the state capital.

On Friday, roughly 100 miles upstream from Little Rock, the Arkansas River, which has been flooding communities for more than a week, tore a 40-foot hole in a levee in Dardanelle, a city of about 4,700 people.

Dardanelle Mayor Jimmy Witt said Saturday that officials don’t believe a temporary levee being constructed will stop the water from flooding the south side of the city, but he hopes it will buy time for residents of up to 800 threatened homes to prepare.

“We have started a last ditch effort to try and protect the southern borders of the city,” he said at a news conference.

The river has been widening the levee breach and floodwaters have been slowly approaching homes, officials said. Water from some creeks and tributaries has already flooded some houses, they said. Yell County judge Mark Thone said flooding has surrounded about 25 people in a rural community a few miles south of Dardanelle, and several roads have closed due to high water.

Meanwhile in North Little Rock, which is just across the Arkansas River from Little Rock, officials were going door-to-door Saturday to tell people in the Dixie Addition neighborhood to consider leaving.

The river isn’t expected to crest in the Little Rock area until Tuesday, but North Little Rock officials said on Facebook that they believe the river will back up storm drainage areas and cause roads to become inaccessible in and around Dixie Addition, possibly for more than a week.

City spokesman Nathan Hamilton said there are about 150 homes covered by the evacuation recommendation. He said other homes also could be affected by flooding, but officials were currently focusing on only the most pressing neighborhood.

The evacuation recommendation followed a false alarm overnight that a nearby levee had breached and that flash flooding was possible. Officials quickly reversed themselves, though, and said that it hadn’t failed and wasn’t in danger of doing so.

Record-breaking flood levels in Fort Smith, Arkansas’ second-largest city, remained steady through the morning, with the National Weather Service predicting the water would begin to recede Saturday night into Sunday morning.

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