The sun reappeared Tuesday in Arkansas, but many areas were watching floodwaters continue to rise as water drained from points north toward the Mississippi River, submerging farmland, roads and filling grain bins.
“At a storage facility near the White River at Des Arc, the operators are actually pumping water into the grain tank to keep it from floating downriver,” said Brent Griffin, Prairie County Extension staff chairman for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
In neighboring Arkansas County, producers are focusing on the next steps, repairing flood damage in the fields.
“Most of our rice farmers will have to get back their rice fields re-pulling levees,” said Grant Beckwith, Arkansas County Extension agent. “We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and if the rain stays away and we get dry, we can get back in the field by the weekend.”
Beckwith said he and producers were keeping a wary eye on the lower Arkansas River and hoped it would continue to drain quickly and take water from Bayou Meto before the crest of the Mississippi arrived. Once the Mississippi swell arrives, it could back up drainage from the Arkansas and its tributaries.
“We’ve seen those pictures of U.S. 67-167 flooded at Jacksonville and all of the water from that one place has to come down Bayou Meto through Arkansas County,” he said.
In Clay County, the St. Francis River was near its crest.
“When the water went over the levee at Lake Wapapello yesterday it made everyone pretty uneasy, and several folks in the town of St. Francis had to move out due to high water,” said Andy Vangilder, Clay County Extension staff chair. “So far, the Clay County drainage district personnel, Corps of Engineers sand volunteers have sandbagged any places that were about to be breached and the levees here have held.”
Vangilder saw the Missouri road department building a temporary levee on Tuesday to help contain the floodwaters just across the St. Francis River on Arkansas Hwy. 90 toward Kennett, Mo. “We’re still not out of the woods but looking better. We still have a lot of fields and ends of fields flooded here. We will be assessing crop damage in the next few days.”
The National Weather Service said many areas of the state had seen more than 5 to 10 inches of rain since April 30 and was reporting “major flooding” on the White River at Newport, Augusta, Georgetown, Des Arc; on the Black River at Pocahontas and Black Rock; on the Cache at Patterson; and on the L’Anguille at Palestine.
“Moderate flooding” was reported on the Eleven Point at Ravenden Springs; on the White at Batesville and Clarendon; on the Mississippi at Arkansas City; and the Little Red River at Judsonia. Pine Bluff and Toad Suck on the Arkansas were near flood stage on Tuesday.
“This is one of the roughest starts some of these growers have had,” said Don Plunkett, newly-retired Jefferson County Extension Staff chair said Monday.
Meanwhile, in Lincoln County, Extension staff chair Chad Norton said much of the water has drained from fields, “but is still rising in the lower fields next to bayous and ditches,” not to mention the “big rains in Pine Bluff area the past 48 hours that still have to come through here.”
Monday’s report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service said that for the week ending May 1, just one day and a few hours were suitable for fieldwork. Corn, cotton and rice planting slowed: each just 1 percentage point higher than the previous week and all well behind the five-year average.
High water closed roads in Prairie County Tuesday morning. The state Highway Department’s list showed of closures in Arkansas, Benton, Carroll, Clark, Clay, Conway, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Faulkner, Greene, Independence, Jackson, Lawrence, Lee, Lonoke, Mississippi, Monroe, Perry, Phillips, Poinsett, Prairie, Pulaski, Randolph, St. Francis, White and Woodruff counties.
For more information on disaster recovery, contact your county Extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.