Arkansans Warned of Rising Waters Near White River Refuge

Authorities warned small communities and cabin dwellers along the White River National Wildlife Refuge that they soon will be affected by rising waters that have flooded more than half the state.

Hydrologist Steve Bays of the National Weather Service said Thursday that residents are going to see a foot-a-day rise. The refuge is located in the floodplain of the White River near where it meets the Mississippi.

"One thing that we are trying to do around here is keep people concerned about what's going on but not inflict a panic, and it's a fine line. It certainly bears monitoring by people along the river," Bays said.

Bays said there were too many variables to predict what will happen when the crest in the White River meets the Mississippi on Arkansas' eastern border. While rain is forecast, it might not be as heavy and might be slower moving than the storms last week that brought on the current conditions.

At St. Charles on Thursday morning, the White River was at 29.3 feet, about a foot higher than a year ago. Bays guessed the river would reach 33-35 feet by late this weekend or early next week, near the 36.5-foot level during floods in 1973.

"It's certainly going to be several feet above what causes some problems," Bays said.

Thursday morning, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for points along the White River downstream from Des Arc.

Gov. Mike Beebe has declared 39 counties — more than half the state — disaster areas, and President Bush issued a federal disaster declaration for 35 counties on Wednesday. One person remains missing after the storms.

In Missouri, the Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday it stopped the release of extra water into the Missouri River below Kansas City, citing residents worried about more flooding.

The corps said it began holding back releases from tributary dams in the lower Missouri on Wednesday. That move effectively negates releases already put in motion from Gavins Point Dam in Yankton, S.D.

The move will still provide a pulse of higher water needed to prompt spawning of an endangered fish, the corps said.

Recent heavy rains also flooded parts of Ohio, Indiana and southern Illinois. The weather has been linked to at least 17 deaths.