Water is already surrounding homes at Island Harbor, and the worst yet to come. Meanwhile, officials remain concerned about the Packing Town area in north Pine Bluff.
The Arkansas River at Pine Bluff continues to rise, with an expected near-record crest coming June 5, according to The National Weather Service.
The river level stood at 44.5 feet Tuesday afternoon at Pine Bluff. Flood stage is 42 feet. The river is expected to crest just above 49 feet on June 5. Already, Island Harbor, Riverside Drive and other areas in Pine Bluff along the river are flooding.
Regional Park is flooded as well. Affected areas also include Knotts Island, Wright-Pastoria and Trulock Bay.
Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson said he will wait until Friday to decide whether or not to order mandatory evacuations.
Speaking to the Pine Bluff Rotary Club at the Pine Bluff Country Club Tuesday, Robinson said: “We’re meeting every day and getting information every day and we will make a decision by Friday on what we’re going to do. The next few days, the next few weeks, we’re going to experience something we have not experienced.”
“All the rain (in current forecasts) is going to make it worse,” Robinson added. “At Wright-Pastoria, the Reydell area, and we’re going to work to try and help those affected, but I’m afraid there are going to be some breaks in the levee system. There’s going to be a lot of work in the Pine Bluff area, too.”
Robinson specifically mentioned Packing Town on the extreme northeast part of Pine Bluff as an area that might see a lot of water from the flooding, and he encouraged members of the Rotary Club to help in any way they can, particularly by donating to the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.
“If you have a heart for giving, the time is now,” Robinson said. “It’s going to be terrible. A lot of water and no place for it to go. This is what’s going to cause us, when this is over, to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate the levee system. To take a second look at it.”
Asked about the possibility of water reaching the Martha Mitchell Expressway, Robinson said: “At 49-feet, no. At 49-feet 6-inches or 49-feet 8-inches, maybe, but we’ve got to be prepared for that.”
Asked about the number of houses and businesses affected, he said about 500 residences. And if the water affects the Packing Town area, several businesses will see damage there.
“Clothing can be replaced and a house can be replaced, but lives can’t be replaced … we hope people get out of there before it’s too late,” Robinson said.
North of here, state highway officials briefly closed two bridges over the Arkansas River in Fort Smith as the waterway surges toward a record crest this week. The bridges re-opened Tuesday afternoon after water levels missed anticipated levels.
Widespread flooding is occurring in the Tulsa area, where severe thunderstorms are also possible Tuesday. In western Arkansas, the river is expected to crest Wednesday in Van Buren at 42.5 feet — or more than 4 feet above its historic crest, which had occurred in 1945.
Forecasters say up to 4 inches of rain is possible this week in the waterlogged areas.
All of that water will eventually wind up in Jefferson County.
According to Entergy Arkansas, "flooding is resulting in power outages for some customers as we de-energize lines in anticipation of electrical equipment being submerged."
When possible, Entergy said it will place an automated phone call warning that power will be interrupted due to flooding.
Entergy did not specify which areas would be affected by the outages.
President Donald Trump, in a Tuesday tweet, expressed his support for Arkansans during the flooding disaster.
Trump's tweet reads: "Just spoke to Governor @AsaHutchinson of the Great State of Arkansas to inform him that FEMA and the Federal Government will do whatever is necessary to help out with what has turned out to be Record Flooding. Asa and local officials are doing a great job!"
Historic Arkansas River crests at Pine Bluff(1) 52.10 ft on 05/28/1943 (2) 50.74 ft on 05/31/1957 (3) 49.90 ft on 04/21/1927 (4) 47.70 ft on 05/09/1990 (5) 46.24 ft on 01/02/2016 (6) 45.96 ft on 06/04/2015 (7) 44.70 ft on 04/26/1973 (8) 44.00 ft on 10/13/1986 (9) 43.75 ft on 04/14/2008 (10) 43.31 ft on 04/29/2011
Recent Arkansas River crests at Pine Bluff(1) 46.24 ft on 01/02/2016 (historic) (2) 45.96 ft on 06/04/2015 (historic) (3) 43.15 ft on 05/14/2015 (4) 43.31 ft on 04/29/2011 (5) 42.40 ft on 05/09/2009 (6) 43.75 ft on 04/14/2008 (7) 42.75 ft on 03/22/2008 (8) 38.91 ft on 12/19/2001 (9) 38.84 ft on 06/24/2000 (10) 42.41 ft on 06/18/1995