Governor Hutchinson tours flood damage in Southeast Arkansas

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DUMAS, Ark. – Governor Asa Hutchinson met with local leaders, farmers and homeowners in Dumas Friday morning to discuss the recent flooding in southeast Arkansas. 

Parts of southeast Arkansas saw more than a foot of rain this week.

Hutchinson said the state saw historic flooding of the Arkansas River in 2019, a pandemic in 2020 and after the pandemic, there is more flooding. 

The governor said Desha, Arkansas, Lincoln and Drew Counties had extensive flood damage. 

“I wanted to see personally what, even though some of it has receded, the tens of thousands of acres that have clearly been lost in terms of our farm production,” Hutchinson said. 

When surveying all the flood waters from a helicopter, Hutchinson said he empathized with what farmers were dealing with on the ground. 

“It was gut-wrenching because it really tests your fortitude whenever you see these losses and you know what the farmers are going through,” he told reporters.

In Desha County, there were numerous flooding reports, and Hutchinson said that damage was apparent on the aerial tour he took earlier in the morning. 

“When you get close to Dumas and Desha County, you see water inundating the fields,” he noted. 

On Thursday, Hutchinson announced he had declared a state of emergency in response to the flooding in southeast Arkansas. That same day the Desha County emergency manager announced the wall of an irrigation canal breached, sending water from the canal flooding into surrounding farmland. 

Nelson Crow has 5,200 acres in the area and said about half of his crops are submerged in water. No time is a good time for a flood, but Crow said this will put many farmers in a bind as it is towards the end of a growing season.

“I mean we just had to finish the crop out, and if this would’ve been two months ago it would’ve been a lot better but we’re kind of toward the tail end,” he explained.

Crow is still able to harvest the remaining half of his crop and is grateful for being able to do that as many other farmers have a higher percentage of their crops flooded.

Hutchinson noted how impressed he was with farmers in the area for their attitudes on the situation.

“I’m impressed with their resilience, their toughness, and the strength to just go on and keep farming,” Hutchinson said.

According to the Mayor of Dumas, there are close to 100 homes and about 20 businesses that have been damaged by the flooding. 

State officials said it’s important that a good assessment is made, and it’s important for farmers to work with their farm service agency and their crop insurance as well as homeowners to communicate with their local Office of Emergency Management.

Hutchinson noted he spoke with a homeowner who saw flooding but has no flooding insurance.  

The governor mentioned that a certain amount of damage must be met for an emergency declaration, and there is a state threshold and a federal threshold. 

Hutchinson said while agriculture will likely meet the federal threshold, it is not likely that the homes impacted by the flooding would. 

The governor said if there is any way the state could get a federal declaration, they will push for it.  

Hutchinson noted after the 2019 flooding, he and lawmakers put $10 million to help repair the levee system on an emergency basis. The governance structure of the levee boards was also modernized, the governor said. 

Hutchinson said the state needs to look at the immediate needs of the drainage district and the infrastructure for how water travels, but also noted it is hard to prepare for 16 to 17 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. 

Hutchinson said he will look at some additional flooding sites throughout the day. 

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