The river finally began falling Friday after a near-record crest of almost 51 feet. The peak crest of 50.85 feet happened at 2:15 p.m. Thursday. The record, set in 1943, is 52.1 feet. Flood stage is currently 42 feet at Pine Bluff. Friday afternoon, the river was at 50.20 feet and falling.
Pine Bluff officials have vowed that even after the near-historic floodwaters recede here, the community’s resilience will bolster recovery. Last week, an evacuation order was issued for about 550 homes within the levee system, said Karen Blevins, the county’s director of emergency management. Because many of the flooded homes are within the levee system, it’s possible that homeowners have flood insurance, though it’s unclear how many actually have it.
Laurie Driver, spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers, said there’s concern throughout the state about the strength of the levees, which are being strained with more water for longer periods of time than ever before. The Arkansas River has been flooding for almost two weeks, after intense rainfall in Oklahoma and Kansas forced officials to release water from a strained dam northwest of Tulsa.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson visited Pine Bluff Tuesday to assess the damage. During his visit, Hutchinson said he was impressed with the community response to the flood. “They’re very resilient, and I think they’re prepared to deal with it,” Hutchinson said. But he also cautioned that lower income residents, like many in Pine Bluff, will have challenges rebuilding. Mayor Washington said the strength of the city has demonstrated Pine Bluff’s ability to rebuild. “I think we can overcome this,” Washington said. “We’re going to keep Pine Bluff moving forward.”