POCAHONTAS, Ark. — Dangerous flooding is occurring in northeast Arkansas Wednesday. This video is from Randolph County north of Jonesboro.
The police chief of Pocahontas, Arkansas says nine levees there have been breached.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency, urging those in the area to seek higher ground immediately.
The Black River in Pocahontas broke a record for flooding overnight. More rain and storms are expected.
Officials in areas downriver are warning residents there to start packing now and be prepared to leave.
More rain is expected to fall and floodwaters continue to rage in northeast Arkansas.
“When you get into a situation like this, it’s hour-to-hour decision making,” Randolph County Judge David Jansen said. “Our number one goal: Don’t lose a life. And we’ve succeeded so far.”
Officials congregated at the Randolph County courthouse Wednesday afternoon to discuss the circumstances that have now turned dire.
Regarding the levee breaches, Judge Jansen said, “Those holes are going to get bigger and bigger and bigger.”
According to the judge, officials in Missouri at Clearwater Lake planned Tuesday to release 7,000 cubic feet of water per second from the lake.
“Every bit of that is coming toward us,” Judge Jansen said.
Though he says he’d like to say each day is going to get better from here… Judge Jansen says that’s not the case.
Residents are told to not attempt to check on their homes or businesses, and to not enter flooded areas whatsoever.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Judge Jansen said the biggest threat is heading into Lawrence County.
Lawrence County Judge John Thomison says people need to make a decision quickly about if they are staying or getting out.
He says Highway 63 toward Walnut Ridge is closed, and people will need to go to Black Rock. He added there is a shelter open at the school there.
Officials say residents in the affected areas can expect the floodwaters to “stabilize” at 27 feet. And although 2-3 inches of rain is expected to come, a significant rise in the flooding is not expected.
11 rescues were made in Pocahontas Wednesday, bring the number to a total of 36 rescues made since the flooding began. 34 people are reportedly staying in the shelter.
At least 50 homes have been destroyed already in Randolph County. The total number of damaged homes in northeast Arkansas has not yet been assessed.
“We’ll join hands and get this thing fixed,” said Judge Jansen. “We don’t give up here in Pocahontas and Randolph Co.”
Judge Jansen commended Law enforcement and volunteers, saying, “It’s pretty neat how everybody comes together… Can’t say enough about our local fire departments, police departments, and volunteers.”
Judge Jansen says the community has “a long way to go.”
Right now, he said, they’re focused on setting up temporary Health Department locations.
“Federal help is coming. But, it’s going to be slow. We gotta be patient,” Judge Jansen said. He says it may be a month before they can even have a meeting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In the meantime, he urges residents and businesses to document and photograph any damage.
Officials say chunks of Highway 67 N. are missing, south of Current River Bridge. Businesses on the east side of Highway 67 will be allowed in to survey the damage soon. By Thursday, Highway 328 should be open, but officials are not expecting the other highways to open yet.
Judge Jansen said the waters are “going to stay high” until probably next week.
A dusk to dawn curfew remains in place for Pocahontas, Mayor Kary Story said.
“Keep us in your prayers,” said Judge Jansen. “We’re strong up here and we will get through this.”