The Arkansas River is expected to crest in Pine Bluff at 51 feet on Thursday, June 6. That’s up two feet from the previous crest announcement and just a foot shy of the all-time record of 52.10 feet set on May 28, 1943.
Meanwhile, Saracen Landing closed on Thursday as the water continues to inundate Regional Park, and the Pine Bluff Street Department was working to sandbag the Port Road levee in Packing Town. As of Thursday afternoon, there had been no decision made to evacuate that area of the city.
Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson said on Wednesday that he was watching that area closely and would make a decision about evacuations Friday.
Areas affected by the flooding include:
• Pine Bluff - Island Harbor Area: Canal Drive, Crossover Lane, Hendricks Road, Holiday Drive, Island Harbor Marina Road, Riverside Drive and Riviera Drive
• Sherrill Area: Trulock Bay Road
• Wright-Brodie Bend Area: Archer Road, Campbell Road, Fisher Adams Road, Henslee Lake Road, Marion Road, Maynard Road, Old River Road, Ray Dean Road, Sunset Bay Road, White's Lane
• Altheimer Area: Knott's Island Road, Shepard Island Road
• Swan Lake - Reydell Area: Acorn Drive, Bayou Meto Park Road, Farelly Road, Jacob Road, Scroggins Road, Swan Lake Rec Road
• Redfield Area: Tar Camp Creek Road
There are approximately 500 houses within the levees in the impacted areas, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. There have been no reports of deaths or injuries in Jefferson County as a result of the flooding, the sheriff’s office said Thursday.
“Because the flooding of the river is steadily rising, all roads within the levee have been closed and evacuations have begun to take place,” a JCSO news release said. “Pine Bluff Regional Park Campground, Tar Camp Creek and Rising Star Corp Campgrounds, Island Harbor Marina, and the Reydell Area below L & D 3 (Acorn Drive, Jacob Road, Farelly Road) have been evacuated at this time. The Island Harbor Volunteer Fire Department has also been evacuated and is out of service.”
Evacuation shelters have been established at the following locations:
• Wright Pastoria Volunteer Fire Department - 8550 Surrat Road, Wright
• Swan Lake Volunteer Fire Department - 11997 Hwy 88, Altheimer
• Family Church- 2309 S. Poplar Street, Pine Bluff
• Seabrook Family Christian Center (on standby) at 6808 S. Hazel Street, Pine Bluff
• First Assembly of God (on standby) - 1002 Ridgway Road, Pine Bluff
Entergy Arkansas will eventually shut off the power to the affected communities, the company has said. Those trying to stay in their homes should be prepared to be without power for two weeks or more, the sheriff’s office said.
Elsewhere in the state, the flooding has prompted the closure of some outdoor attractions near Bill Clinton's presidential library in downtown Little Rock.
The Clinton Presidential Center said Thursday that a pedestrian bridge and the Arkansas River trail are closed because of the flooding.
Photos show the floodwaters encroaching on the wetlands and park surrounding the library.
Significant flooding is expected in Little Rock and North Little Rock as a rush of water heads downstream from Oklahoma and Kansas. The river is projected to crest at Little Rock next week at 29 feet, which is 6 feet above flood stage and considered major flooding.
Officials expected hundreds of homes to flood in Fort Smith, Arkansas' second-largest city. In nearby Van Buren, officials warned that a levee protecting a mostly rural area was "showing signs of significant leakage and deterioration."
Just across the border in Oklahoma's Muskogee County, the conditions have already prompted the evacuations of more than 2,400 people and flooded nearly 1,100 homes, according to the local emergency management department.
Arkansas officials kept a watchful eye on a weakened levee in rural Crawford County on the western edge of the state. Sheriff Ron Brown said an 80-foot-wide section of the levee slid down Tuesday morning, but workers were able to reinforce it to prevent the levee from being breached.
Brown said the levee was still at risk of failing. If that happens, about 250 people and 150 structures would be at risk.
All other levees in Arkansas were in good shape as the river level remained at a historic crest Thursday, according to Col. Bob Dixon of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But he said local levee boards should have a plan in place in case a levee fails, because the flooding is expected to persist for days if not weeks.
"My concern is, they are designed for a temporary load and they are holding a lot more water than they have been tested on before," Dixon said.
Meanwhile, portions of the raging river showed signs of receding upstream in northeastern Oklahoma as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers scaled back releases from a hydroelectric dam near Tulsa, about 104 miles (167 kilometers) northeast of Fort Smith.
Powerful storms that dropped more than 20 inches (51 centimeters) of rain on parts of the region over the past month have overwhelmed the Keystone Lake reservoir, which drains a watershed of about 22,000 square miles (57,000 square kilometers) in Oklahoma and Kansas.
Lt. Col. Adam Weece said releases from the dam into the swollen river have fallen from a high of 275,000 cubic feet (7,787 cubic meters) per second Wednesday to 240,000 cubic feet (6,796 cubic meters) per second.
"We've been stepping down the release overnight. It's a gradual process," Weece said, noting that the Corps plans to reduce flow to 100,000 cubic feet (2831 cubic meters) per second by Tuesday.
The river's level in Tulsa crested Wednesday afternoon and had fallen by almost 2 feet (0.61 meters) by Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday that more than 400 homes have been voluntarily evacuated because of the flooding. The Republican said he directed another $250,000 in state funds toward the flood response and requested federal assistance from the Trump administration.
At least one death in Arkansas has been blamed on the flooding. In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker activated the National Guard to respond to recent severe flooding there.