Traffic moves over the I-540 bridge as the Arkansas River floods along Adams Street Thursday, May 30, 2019, in Van Buren, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

Record flooding causes levee breach in western Arkansas

May 31, 2019 - 8:52 am

DARDANELLE, Ark. (AP) — A levee breached Friday along the Arkansas River, prompting a flash flood warning and evacuation of a rural area in western Arkansas.

Officials said the levee breached at Dardanelle, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) northwest of Little Rock. Yell County officials had anticipated the breach and urged residents in the nearby Holla Bend area to evacuate Thursday.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said crews went door to door to recommend evacuation for about 160 homes.

Yell County Emergency Manager Jeff Gilkey told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that rapid currents from the river ripped a 40-foot (12-meter) section from the levee. Aerial video posted by the sheriff's office Friday showed water pouring through the hole.

"There was nothing we could do to stop it," Gilkey said.

National Weather Service data showed a dip in the water level at Dardanelle, likely due to the breach. A flash flood warning was issued early Friday for the area, and forecasters said residents should be prepared for rapidly rising water.

The levee breached because of ongoing flooding along the Arkansas River, which began in Oklahoma. Late Thursday night, President Donald Trump approved the state's request for a disaster declaration in 16 counties affected by the flooding.

Entergy Arkansas said Friday that it does not anticipate any impact to its nuclear plant near the Arkansas River in Russellville.

In Fort Smith, the state's second-largest city, the river levels held steady at above-record levels Friday. Officials there said they wouldn't know the extent of the damage until the water receded, which could take days, if not longer.

Earlier this year, about two dozen levee systems were breached or overtopped during Missouri River flooding that devastated parts of Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri.