North Little Rock urges evacuations over flooding fears

National News
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The Arkansas River floods Harry E. Kelley River Park Thursday, May 30, 2019, in Fort Smith, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Officials began knocking on doors Saturday in a North Little Rock neighborhood and warning residents to leave for higher ground, as floodwaters that have been spilling into Arkansas River communities upstream for more than a week make their way downstream.

The recommended evacuation of the Dixie Addition neighborhood in North Little Rock, which sits just across the river from the state capital of Little Rock, followed a false alarm overnight that a nearby levee had breached and flash flooding was possible. Although officials quickly reversed themselves and said that it hadn’t failed and wasn’t in danger of doing so, there have been levees that have been breached or topped along the Arkansas and two other regional rivers in recent days.

North Little Rock officials said on Facebook that they believe the Arkansas 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 river isn’t expected to crest in the Little Rock area until Tuesday.

On Friday, officials said the river tore a 40-foot (12-meter) hole in a levee in Dardanelle, about 100 miles upriver from Little Rock. The breach flooded parts of Holla Bend, just downriver from Dardanelle, but officials had anticipated the problem on Thursday and had urged residents to evacuate about 160 homes.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said officials were working to identify higher-risk spots in the river’s levee system.

“Obviously the breach in Dardanelle is a sign that there could be more of these breaches that will happen as the pressure continues to mount in the coming days,” Hutchinson said.

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.

Flooding along the Missouri River in central Missouri prompted officials to issue a mandatory evacuation order Friday for some residents of Howard County, where the river had topped a levee. A topped levee along the Mississippi River, in northeastern Missouri, flooded several thousand acres of farmland Thursday.

In Oklahoma, water levels continued to drop as residents who were forced from their homes made plans to return. The weather service reported that the Arkansas River in Tulsa dipped below flood stage for the first time since flooding began.

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