- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

GARLAND CITY, Ark. (AP) - Authorities allowed 242 residents of a southwestern Arkansas town to return to their homes after the swollen Red River began to recede and a levee was determined to be safe.

Miller County Emergency Management Director Larry Pritchett said Saturday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspected the levee Friday afternoon and found it sound.

The evacuation order for the Garland City homes was issued about 12:30 a.m. Friday and emergency officials worked to strengthen a levee that was weakened by a “sand boil,” in which the water washes out the levee from underneath. Pritchett said crews worked until about noon on Friday filling it in.

Deputy emergency management director Terry Purvis told the Texarkana Gazette (http://bit.ly/1BRu01N ) that he worked during a 1990 flood of the river and has seen several tornadoes, but that this was the most frightening.

“There would have been 50,000 acres under water in about two minutes if that levee would have breached,” Purvis said.

“I’ve never been so scared. The Red River is a beast. It’s so dangerous,” he said. “With the water as high as it is, there was so much force against it. I don’t think a calculator can figure out that much force.”

Heavy rains in Texas and Oklahoma in recent weeks triggered sharp rises on the river and number of roadways across Oklahoma and in east Texas and southwestern Arkansas remain closed because of high water.

Garland City resident Joe Day Washington, at the shelter in Texarkana on Friday, said he was told of the evacuation order by a neighbor and quickly packed clothes and medicine and left.

“I don’t know how to swim,” he said with a laugh.

Clare Francavilla, disaster program manager for Red Cross, said eight people stayed at the shelter while most of the evacuees sought shelter with family and friends.

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