- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 26, 2011

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. | A powerful storm system that spawned a deadly tornado in Arkansas caused rivers to swell Tuesday across the Midwest, straining levees that protect thousands of homes and forcing panicked residents of one town to flee for higher ground.

The National Weather Service issued a high risk warning for severe weather in a stretch extending from northeast of Memphis to just northeast of Dallas and covering a large swath of Arkansas. It last issued such a warning on April 16, when dozens of tornadoes hit North Carolina and killed 21 people. Fourteen tornado warnings had been issued in Arkansas by 6 p.m. Tuesday, although there was no confirmation that any funnel clouds touched the ground.

The latest round of storms began as communities in much of the region struggled with flooding and damage from earlier twisters. Six inches of rain fell Monday alone in the southeastern Missouri community of Poplar Bluff, bringing the four-day total to 15 inches. The deluge caused the Black River to pour over a levee in 30 places and to break through in one spot, and about 1,000 homes were evacuated.

Deputy Police Chief Jeff Rolland said it was a “miracle” that the levee had held until late morning. He credited emergency crews for their work to bolster weakened areas of the barrier and for evacuating residents from about 1,000 homes.

The levee extends from Poplar Bluff to the town of Qulan downstream, in a sparsely populated area. Butler County Sheriff Mark Dodd said water pouring through a breach between the two towns was unlikely to make it far enough upstream to threaten Poplar Bluff, a town of 17,000 residents about 130 miles south of St. Louis. Authorities planned to evacuate only homes closest to the breach.

Flooding in 2008 damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes in Poplar Bluff, raising questions about whether the levee was capable of protecting the town during times of heavy rainfall.

A federal inspection afterward gave the levee a failing grade, and the private district that operates the levee was unable to make repairs since, Tony Hill, an official with the Army Corps of Engineers, told the Associated Press on Tuesday. Because the problems weren’t addressed, the levee no longer qualifies for a federal program that provides money for such repairs, he said.

The storm system has dumped relentless rain on several states over the past week, including Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee. As the worst of the system moved north and east into Illinois, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Tennessee, the region was bracing for a second round of storms Tuesday evening.

The storms spawned at least one tornado Monday in Arkansas that killed four people and carved a wide swath of destruction through the town of Vilonia, 25 miles north of Little Rock. And flooding in the northwest of the state caused at least five other deaths.

Authorities in Mississippi say a 3-year-old girl in the city of McComb was killed when a storm from the same system toppled a large tree into her family’s home. The girl’s parents, who were in the room with her, were both injured.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide