Rural AR faces severe flooding

Severe flooding in 13 Arkansas counties is going virtually unnoticed by the rest of the country.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | EARLE, Ark. | May 22, 2003

Severe flooding in 13 Arkansas counties is going virtually unnoticed by the rest of the country.

Arkansas has declared state disaster areas in the affected counties, and representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are investigating whether the federal government should make a similar declaration.

Earle, a town of about 3,000 people in rural Crittenden County, just west across the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tenn., is one community that was particularly hard-hit by heavy rain and flooding last weekend.

Floodwaters began to recede today, but the main route through town state highway 64 is still underwater.

At least 95 houses have either been destroyed or incurred major damage from the flooding, according to reports from the American Red Cross, which has helped 83 families. The Arkansas Emergency Management Agency puts the total number of affected homes between 150 and 160, and expects the final number to rise above 200.

Many people in the largely low-income community are not insured for the kind of damage their homes sustained.

Other problems areas are in White and Conway counties, and the rest of the flood damage is spread out all over the state. Cross and Chico counties have sustained damage as well.

The damage was caused by flash floods, and it mainly occurred in remote, rural areas, some of which are just being identified.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief has been providing "mud-out kits" for flood survivors, or supplies necessary for cleaning mud and mold from flooded homes.

Searcy, about 50 miles northeast of Little Rock, was one hard-hit town. The Red Cross has set up a case management center there at the West Race Baptist Church.

Crop damage and lost work time has caused a big headache for farmers all over the state.

"The fields were already wet from previous rains," said Keith Martin, the White County agricultural extension agent. "We have not been able to do much field work for the past 2 weeks."

Rice farmers will have to repair levees, he said, and many crops of corn, rice and soybeans will be lost because of the flooding.

Meanwhile areas of that same county (White County) still haven't been accessed by damage assessment teams. According to a situation summary issued by the Arkansas State Emergency Operations Center, a small community called Georgetown is still inaccessible because of flooded roads. As of Wednesday evening, nobody knew how many homes were damaged there.

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