Evacuation order issued as Red River threatens Arkansas town

AP News
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Posted: Jun 05, 2015 4:34 PM

GARLAND CITY, Ark. (AP) — Emergency officials told the 242 residents of a southwestern Arkansas town to stay away from their homes Friday because floodwaters are threatening to undermine a levee along the Red River.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said that while the river is falling, enough pressure remains along a dirt levee that a sand boil developed. Water is seeping through the hole, and workers are hoping to balance the pressure by pumping water into a pond on the other side of the levee. It is hoped that the pond will "push back" against the river, state officials said.

"It is still very much touch and go," Rick Fahr, a spokesman for the emergency agency, said in an interview. In a subsequent email regarding the evacuees, he said "It may be a few days before they can return."

Emergency workers went door-to-door late Thursday to impose the evacuation order. A shelter opened in Texarkana, 15 miles away, but only eight people showed up, said Clare Francavilla, the disaster program manager for the American Red Cross in northeast Texas, though her region also covers Miller County, Arkansas.

"Any time you have a disaster, we only expect about 1 percent to show up (at a shelter), Francavilla said. "People would rather go anyplace else."

Typically in rural Arkansas, residents stay with relatives or friends after a disaster.

Francavilla said that, while visiting Garland City overnight to take coffee and snacks to emergency workers, it seems like she was stepping into a movie.

"It looked like a scene from a science fiction movie," she said. "All you could see were these big sand trucks going back and forth. There were no cars on the street. I didn't pass any cars going out."

Heavy rains in Texas and Oklahoma in recent weeks triggered sharp rises on the Red River. A number of roadways in the area were shut down because of high water.