FEMA monitors swelling river

Peyton Daniel grabs a sandbag while workers try to stop a leak from a levy, on Tuesday near Des Arc, Ark. Severe weather led to several states experiencing flooding. Mike Wintroath, The Associated Press

AP

Peyton Daniel grabs a sandbag while workers try to stop a leak from a levy, on Tuesday near Des Arc, Ark. Severe weather led to several states experiencing flooding. Mike Wintroath, The Associated Press

By Jon Grambrell

DES ARC, Ark. – Sandbagging shored up a weakened levee along the White River on Tuesday and relieved a threat that it would fail as a major flood crest moved down the waterway, emergency management officials said.

Although the rural levee in central Arkansas was leaking in spots, it was holding. Officials told residents it was safe to stay in Des Arc, after urging them to evacuate earlier in the day.

“We’re just kind of monitoring the water right now. As far as we know from the Corps of Engineers, it’s safe to stay,” said Prairie County Sheriff Gary Burnett.

Elsewhere in Arkansas, state and federal teams prepared to examine flood-damaged buildings and businesses.

Bob Alvey, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he expected nine teams to spread across counties in northwest Arkansas first, then move to Arkansas’ prairie, where the White River is threatening communities.

“We’re hitting areas we can get to because a lot of areas we can’t get to,” Alvey said Tuesday morning. State and federal officials planned an afternoon news conference Tuesday to provide an update on damages.

The White River swelled after last week’s storms, which devastated large parts of the Midwest.

The river had risen about 7 feet in four days at Des Arc and was expected to crest Tuesday afternoon at 33.5 feet, the National Weather Service estimated.

On Monday, water poured into Bayou Des Arc, an area just north of the town of 1,900, damaging scattered homes and cabins. Downtown Des Arc is on a rise and was not in immediate danger.

Last week’s torrential rain caused flooding in parts of Ohio, Indiana and southern Illinois, and in wide areas of Missouri. At least 17 deaths have been linked to the weather.

Although wide areas of Missouri were especially hard-hit, the city of Cape Girardeau, which had record flooding in 1993, narrowly escaped serious problems this time. The Mississippi River crested there early Monday at 41.04 feet, a foot shy of the level that causes serious flooding, the weather service said.

Associated Press writer Cheryl Wittenauer contributed to this report