High water closes barge traffic on parts of Arkansas River, causes minor flooding



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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Portions of the Arkansas River flooded onto park land Wednesday after weekend storms caused high water levels, and officials said closures on the waterway could last through the Memorial Day holiday.

The Little Rock District Army Corps of Engineers closed several locks and dams along the river, blocking portions to barge traffic. The Corps has also issued a small craft advisory that started last Friday and could last through the end of the month, depending on when water levels subside.

"Those (advisories) are issued whenever the river flow reaches 70,000 cubic feet of water per second," said Corps spokesman Jay Townsend.

He said the pool near the Murray Lock and Dam in Little Rock reached 320,000 cubic feet of water per second Wednesday afternoon. The Corps closed a lock and dam near Jefferson Wednesday and three others in Fort Smith, Morrilton and Toad Suck on Monday.

The Fort Smith lock and dam, where nine inches of rain fell between Friday and Monday, was reopened to barge traffic Tuesday, but the small craft advisory remained.

Tabitha Clarke, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock, said the Arkansas River flooded near Pine Bluff on Wednesday as the water rose to over 42 feet. She said high waters reached Little Rock at midday, with water levels over 20 feet.

River overflow flooded some parkland near the Clinton Presidential Center and Park but no private property or roads.

Clarke said bigger problems may arise as another rain system moves into the state.

"We're going to be kind of unsettled next week with another system moving down. All of the creeks and streams are full, and another rain event has the potential to have some flash flooding in areas that already received heavy rainfall," she said.

The weather service predicts more rain next week, but Clarke said it's too early to tell if the rainfall would impact the river.

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