Breached levees along the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers have created chaos and destruction in already-inundated communities in the central United States. Heavy rains in Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and northeast Oklahoma, as well as Arkansas, have resulted in disaster in the region, exacerbated by swollen rivers from the north. The breached levees are putting thousands of homes at risk of being flooded.
According to the National Weather Service, every large community along the Arkansas River can expect to be confronted with major or record flooding within the coming week and 16 counties have declared states of disaster. Ponca City, Oklahoma; Van Buren, Morrilton; and Toad Suck, Arkansas have all set record crests for the river and meteorologists predict more record crests will be seen downstream soon in places like Pendleton, Arkansas.
Earlier today a breached levee sent water in full force towards the city of Dardanelle, a city with a population of roughly 5,000 people. Mayor Jimmy Witt commented, "Right now we're planning to take some equipment down there and build some berms to try and slow that down or stop its progression coming into town.” Another levee in Logan County along state Highway 309 also breached.
Flooding from the previous week’s heavy rainfall has put enormous pressure on the Arkansas River’s aging levee system. Arkansas’s Department of Emergency Management reported earlier this week that the levees have never held back such a large quantity of water for this long.
Additional flooding in the region is threatening states along the Mississippi River as well and as the forecast predicts continued heavy rains, mandatory evacuations are anticipated in some areas. While we are still too much in the thick of it to be able to say what is causing these intense rains, climate change undoubtedly is playing a significant role in these disasters.