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Gov. Asa Hutchinson deploys National Guard to combat Arkansas flooding following several levee breaches

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
May 05, 2017, 10:17:41 AM EDT

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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has deployed additional resources to combat the extreme flooding in northern parts of the state as many communities remain underwater.

A dangerous flooding situation in northeastern Arkansas worsened on Wednesday morning when a levee failed along the Black River near the town of Pocahontas.

Following the breach, the National Weather Service office in Memphis, Tennessee, immediately issued a flash flooding emergency and urged residents to seek higher ground immediately due to life-threatening flooding.

Water rescues were occurring just south of Pocahontas in the community of Shannon, according to the NWS.

Pocahontas

This aerial image shows the severe flooding that has overwhelmed parts of Pocahontas, Arkansas. (Photo/Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson)


Evacuation orders were issued on Monday for eastern Pocahontas, which included 150 homes, dozens of businesses and an assisted living facility, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Water had begun to spill over the top of the levee on Tuesday, and officials warned of an imminent levee breach.

At least 50 homes have either been destroyed or have sustained major damage due to the flooding, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Gauge data shows the river crested at a record level of 28.95 feet at 8:30 p.m. local time Tuesday, but it is forecast to remain above the major flood stage of 25 feet through early Saturday morning.

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"This is the most extensive flooding in an urban area that I've ever seen as governor," said Hutchinson, who surveyed the flooding in Randolph, Lawrence and Sharp counties by helicopter on Tuesday.

Hutchinson declared a state of emergency for the state and said he will ask for federal disaster aid, the Democrat-Gazette reported.

At least nine sections of the levee system failed in Randolph County alone and three of the breaches were categorized as "major" Hutchinson said.

The governor also said in a Wednesday press conference he authorized additional resources to be applied to what is already in place in impacted areas. This includes strengthening the deployment of the Arkansas National Guard, which has 25 vehicles ready to deal with high-water rescues and 108 service members in the affected communities.

At least 500 evacuations have already occurred in the state, Hutchinson said.

Days of heavy rain have resulted in the record crests of numerous rivers across the central United States. Many parts of the Mississippi River in Missouri and Arkansas will remain above flood stage into next week.

"A general 4-8 inches of rain fell, while some locations received 10 inches of rain in part of the Central states," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.

At least seven people have been killed due to the severe storms and heavy flooding in Arkansas since April 26.


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