Heavy rains wash out Arkansas rice levees, spark flood warnings

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For some parts of Arkansas, the landscape has become more water than land.

The deadly storm system that surged across the state on Sunday brought up to 7 inches of rain in some places and revived images of past flooding when rivers across the Arkansas Delta rose from their banks claiming homes, businesses and roads. Fourteen people died in Sunday night’s storms.

The National Weather Service had flood warnings in effect Monday for the White River at Augusta, Batesville, Clarendon, Georgetown and Newport; the Cache River near Patterson; the Spring River at Imboden and Hardy; the Eleven Point River near Ravenden Springs; and the Black River at Pocahontas and Black Rock. A flood advisory was in effect for the White River at Des Arc.

Andy Vangilder, Clay County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said heavy rains had submerged some fields entirely, and most fields were flooded at their low ends.

“A lot of our rice levees were washed down and will have to be built back up when the land dries,” he said Monday. For those parts of fields underwater, “if the water gets off soon, we may possibly not lose too much crop.”

Having local rivers recede may take some time, because some of the water is still draining south from Missouri.

Frequent rain and the cool temperatures this spring have frustrated Arkansas farmers trying to plant crops.

Before Sunday’s rain, “we were just starting to get in good shape,” Vangilder said.

In Lee County, Extension Staff Chair Stan Baker said some spots received more than four inches of rain Sunday night and more than six inches since Thursday night. However, in general, the county’s farms looked to be in pretty good shape.

“With all the rain, there are some fields under water, and a replant may be necessary, but most of these fields had not been planted yet,” he said Monday. “There were a lot of acres planted in the county the past two weeks. The rain was needed in many of the fields because the soil had crusted, and the rain softened it to make plant emergence easier.”

The forecast for the Little Rock warning area shows dry weather from Wednesday through Sunday.

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