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Residents Prepare for Historic Flooding Disaster, With a Chance of Additional Rain

This is a submurged sign along Route 63 near Walnut Ridge in Lawrence County.  Lawrence County is among the 4 counties under a Flash Flood Watch due to the flooding of the Black River in Pocahontas.
Ann Kenda, Arkansas Public Media
This is a submurged sign along Route 63 near Walnut Ridge in Lawrence County. Lawrence County is among the 4 counties under a Flash Flood Watch due to the flooding of the Black River in Pocahontas.


That's the only way Kary Story, Mayor of Pocahontas, can describe the record flooding coming to his city.  The National Weather Service in Memphis on Tuesday issued a Flash Flood Warning for southeastern Randolph County, and central Lawrence County.

The alert is in response to the Black River at Pocahontas, in which the water overtook the levee causing a failure of the dam.  Governor Asa Hutchinson took a moment from the special legislative session in Little Rock to survey the area.  Hutchinson held a press conference earlier that day with Story and A.J. Gary, the Director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.

Ahead of the flooding, Story issued mandatory evacuations of east Pocahontas.  He said many residents remember the record flooding events in 2008 and 2011, in which the Black River crest around 28ft.  The weather service is expecting the river to reach 31.5 feet by Friday before receding.

Brandon "Bo" Graham, the coordinator for the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management, said he's been working with ADEM for assistance.  Graham said the National Guard has been deployed to the region. "They [ADEM] are helping us with the resources that we need," Graham said.

People from within the community have also been offering assistance to displaced residents.  A shelter was opened at the Old Randolph County Nursing Home.  "We have been in contact with the Red Cross," Graham said, "but we are needing items [such as] linen, pillow cases, towels, washcloths... those types of things."

Another resident providing assistance was Eric Moffett, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Pocahontas.  "In the last couple of days, we've seen an incredible show of compassionate humanity," Moffett said.  He said many people on the west side of the river have been lending their time and resources to help their neighbors to the east.

Meanwhile, residents in another Mid-South community were recently devastated by flooding caused by the weekend storms.  Doniphan, Mo. sits near the Current River.  Over the weekend, rising waters from the river flooded many businesses, seeped into their City Hall, and caused a bridge which crosses the river to close.  The water was so high, that it covered the bridge.

Teresa Lee lives in Doniphan.  She is also one of the former owner-operators of "K. C.'s On the Current," which is a company that offers kayaking and canoe tours on the Current River.  The flooding impacted K. C.'s this time just as it did back in 2008.

"I had been flooded back in 2008, but I no longer own the building. " Lee said. "It has been hard to watch that."

Since this weekend, the waters have receded and local officials have opened the bridge back up.  However, more rain is expected to enter the Mid-South as early as Wednesday.  Lee said city officials were still evaluating the safety of the bridge.  She said the additional weather has put the entire community "on edge."

As for Pocahontas, Story said something needs to be done to look at the current levee system to prevent this kind of disaster from happening again.

"I think we need to have [the U. S. Army Corps. of] engineers to do some studies," Story said.  "I'd like to see an impact study done to see what we can do to relieve Pocahontas."

Being a family man himself, Mayor Story said how the flooding of his city will impact families is something that will stay with him.  "My heart goes out to those children and families," Story said, "but I am proud that we live in a community that's come together and is trying to help each other, and will help each other, through this."

Copyright 2017 KASU

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