Heavy rains in the central United States have caused levees to breach along the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers, which may eventually put thousands of homes in danger.
The fast-flowing Arkansas River smashed a 40-foot (12-meter) hole in a levee in rural western Arkansas, causing water to spill into a nearby community. In northeast Missouri, a levee was overtopped on the Mississippi River, and another levee was topped on the Missouri River in the central part of the state.
In Arkansas, officials were warning of more potential problems on an already strained levee system.
“These levees were not built to sustain this high a flow for this long, and we are seeing problems and there more than likely will be more,” said Laurie Driver, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District.
Waters have been rising for a week, forcing authorities to place barricades all along the Arkansas River warning people not to go in.
Parks, farms and homes are under water in what is being called an “historic” event that is leaving authorities to grapple with how to mitigate the disaster.
Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) visited his stricken hometown of Dardanelle, about 60 miles northwest of Little Rock, to get a personal view of what is happening in his state.
“You can see the volume of water that’s flowing through this dam, the immense flooding of this historic flood just south of Dardanelle,” he said. “Now we’ve had a levee breach unfortunately, which may end up flooding some of southern Dardanelle coming around to the bayou in the back. It just gives you a sense of the scale of this natural disaster that we’ve had here in the Arkansas River Valley.”
It could take weeks for the waters to recede, but the effects of the flooding are expected to be felt long after that.
The river is covering farmland crops like soybeans, corn, rice, and authorities say those fields could be ruined for three to five years, leaving farmers facing ruin with them. Hundreds of homes threatened by flooding, while others have become inaccessible because of road closures.
The levee breached because of ongoing flooding along the Arkansas River, which began in Oklahoma. Late Thursday night, President Donald Trump approved the Arkansas request for a disaster declaration in 16 counties affected by the flooding. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the declaration will help the state minimize the loss, but added that “this is far from over.