‘Flood of historic magnitude,’ says Governor Hutchinson


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Governor Asa Hutchinson held a news conference Wednesday at the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management at Camp Robinson to update the public on flood levels, and to provide the status of state and local mitigation work.

During the news conference, the governor said 16 agencies are participating in flooding efforts. 

Governor Hutchinson toured the Toad Suck Lock & Dam area and said it is under water. He toured the levee for about five miles and watched the work being done to strengthen the levee to make sure they hold. 

The governor has signed a second emergency order that will increase the funding from the state to $350,000.

In a letter, Governor Hutchinson has asked the president to expedite federal assistance to Arkansas. 

He said during the news conference he has plans to ask for federal assistance to strengthen the levees and maybe make them higher. In 2016, levees were rebuilt and strengthened in Perry County and today they can tell that it is working. 

“This is a flood of historic magnitude,” says Governor Hutchinson. He added that Arkansas’ levee system was not built for this type of flooding and it’s holding in most areas but there have been a few breaches and topping of the levees. 

It was announced that twelve state highways are closed because of high water. 

Tomorrow the governor will get a view from the air of the statewide flooding. 

As of Wednesday, over 400 homes across the state have been evacuated.

“We are looking at nature and it’s power,” says Governor Hutchinson.

Rivers that flow into the Arkansas River are now flowing backward because that water cannot get into the Arkansas River.

This is the first time that all of the emergency support functions have been in the state emergency operations center in the history of our state. The center will be fully activated for at least two more weeks.

The governor said that Arkansans should stay informed every day as there will be new information available daily. 

It was emphasized that Arkansans should stay away from the flood waters and not pass safety barricades. County sheriff offices will be ticketing people who are caught driving around barricades. 

The governor said there have been no reports of looting since the flooding but added: “I expect the people of Arkansans to behave well.”

Officials that also spoke: The director of Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, the head of the Arkansas National Guard, the head of the Arkansas State Police, and a representative from the Arkansas Department of Transportation. 

Watch the news conference in the video above. 

Full news release: 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen French Hill, Rick Crawford, Steve Womack, and Bruce Westerman—sent a letter to President Donald Trump and administration officials urging them to support Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s request for a federal disaster declaration due to extensive damage as a result of continued flooding and recent severe storms in the state.

“The resourcefulness and resilience of Arkansans in recent days has been impressive; however, as losses mount, the people of our great state hope the federal government will join in these restoration efforts,” members wrote in the letter.

The following is the full text of the delegation’s letter of support:

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the State of Arkansas, we are writing to support Governor Asa Hutchinson’s request to declare a major disaster, pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Act, as a result of the recent devastating flooding and severe storms across the state.  

Currently, 15 counties are reporting damage from extremely heavy rainfall, both locally and upriver in the Arkansas River system, with multiple levee breaches across the state. Voluntary evacuations are currently underway across at least four counties, with shelters opening in the cities of Fort Smith, Conway, Altheimer and Wright. These facilities can only take in 755 Arkansans displaced by dangerously high waters.

Simply put this is a historic flood that demands the immediate attention of the federal government. Since May 21, 2019, the Arkansas River has seen levels rise at a historic rate, surpassing the record floods of 2015, 1990, 1941 and 1927.  This unprecedented flooding is something unseen on the Arkansas River before. Long-term saturation will provide prolonged stress on the levee system, yielding devasting impacts to infrastructure and personal property if failure occurs.

As Governor Hutchinson noted in his request, there has been extensive damage across the state. Presently, the state is conducting extensive flood fighting operations with multiple counties impacted, and considerable property and infrastructure damage either occurring or anticipated to occur. There are approximately 3,124 total structures with potential impacts, and this number will continue to rise as the flooding continues.

Due to the unknowns associated with this event, and the amount of rain and changing conditions, it is difficult to estimate the level of Direct Federal Assistance required. The activities listed below are our current estimates based on past experiences:

  • United States Army Corps of Engineers – sandbags, self-contained pumps, damage assessment teams, power generation, technical assistance, mapping, GIS support, and inundation mapping
  • United States Coast Guard – air transportation assets, technical assistance
  • Civil Air Patrol – air assets
  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service – wildlife management assistance and technical assistance
  • United States Department of Agriculture – crop damage assessment, technical assistance water management, and inundation mapping
  • Federal Highway Administration – Emergency Relief Program
  • Environmental Protection Agency – damage assessments, technical assistance
  • National Guard – heavy-lift helicopters, aerial imagery

The resourcefulness and resilience of Arkansans in recent days has been impressive; however, as losses mount, the people of our great state hope the federal government will join in these restoration efforts.

Federal government resources are critical in the immediate aftermath of this devastating storm, and coordination between the federal government and state and local officials is crucial to begin the process of recovery and rebuilding.

We are eager to assist in any way possible to ensure expedited evaluation of this request. Please do not hesitate to contact our offices with any questions.

We thank you for the support you have already offered, and respectfully ask for your continued attention and assistance in providing the resources necessary to ensure the safety of Arkansans.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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