Arkansas River Crests In Little Rock, Emergency Officials Now Watching Downriver

Jun 5, 2019

The swollen Arkansas River passing underneath the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock Tuesday evening. Officials say the flooded river will soon begin to recede.
Credit Wes Goodner

Officials with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and several counties across Arkansas are continuing to deal with challenges brought by the flooding of the Arkansas River. On Wednesday the river seemed to be cresting in Little Rock at a height of 29.7 feet. Melody Daniel, a spokeswoman with the ADEM, says more rain forecast in central Arkansas could extend the length of time the river crests, but it’s not expected to go higher.

"Our partners over at National Weather Service are relatively certain that it’s not going to extend the height of the crest, but it might extend the number of days that the river is cresting until it reaches that final point and begins to recede," Daniel said. With the river at different stages around the state, emergency officials are responding accordingly.

"The areas up in the northwest part of Arkansas or the western part – Van Buren, Ozark, Dardanelle, those areas – they’ve already seen their crest. The river is receding, and so our focus there is starting to do as much of the preliminary post-flood assessments as we can do,” said Daniel. She added that officials are also continuing to monitor levees near Conway and are watching for any potential levee overtopping further downriver near Pine Bluff and Pendleton.

As the water continues to rise in southeast Arkansas, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Laurie Driver is urging people there to be cautious.

"We know that a lot of people want to go out and see this historic event, see this water, but we want to give some words of caution. Those levees are protecting a lot of folks, a lot of infrastructure, a lot of homes and a lot of farmland," said Driver. She warned people not to drive on the levees to get a better view of the water. "These levees are also saturated. They have to drain some. That’s one of the reasons we’re asking people not to get any heavy equipment, cars or vehicles, on those, to stay off of them." 

Driver said that the Corps is helping to monitor levees throughout Arkansas, especially around Pine Bluff ahead of the river’s crest there.

"We’ve got advisers out and folks helping them keep an eye on levees, looking for hot spots," said Driver. She added that hot spots are not necessarily signs that a levee will fail, but are important to watch for.

"Part of the process with high water – and this much water – is that maybe there’s a sand boil, maybe there’s some seepage, but that doesn’t say that it’s going to fail right then," Driver said. She also warned people not to become panicked by rumours from unofficial sources. "If there is a serious issue, people in that area will be notified."

Overall, Driver was optimistic about the days ahead.

"We see light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re waiting for it to get here,” she said. “We just want everybody to hang tight and stay safe."