- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - National Weather Service hydrologists issued flood warnings Monday for areas along the Ouachita River and the Little Missouri River in southwest Arkansas, days ahead of an expected deluge of rain.

Meteorologists updated the forecast Monday evening, predicting as much as 8 inches of rain in western Arkansas as a storm system moves across the state for several days. Areas in the central region could see 4 to 6 inches, and eastern parts of the state are expected to get between 2 and 4 inches.

The rain is expected to start Monday night in some areas, but the heaviest downpour isn’t expected to fall in Arkansas until Wednesday.

“The reason we’re looking at so much rain is there’s a storm system coming out of the southwest, and there’s a big area of high pressure over the southeast. The storm system is going to encounter that big high-pressure system and slow down… and sort of wobble toward us,” said meteorologist John Lewis with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.

A flash flood watch has been issued ahead of the rain for more than two dozen counties starting Tuesday. National Weather Service hydrologist Tabitha Clarke said the biggest flooding concern for Arkansas as of the early forecasts was in the Ouachita River Basin.

“We’re going to monitor it over the next couple days. Right now we’re looking at a forecast based on a forecast,” Clarke said. “In the Ouachita River Basin, there’s a lot of flash flooding in the middle of the week. Then there’s river flooding by the end of the week. And some points won’t see their flood crest until next week.”

State and federal officials were getting ahead of the potential for flooding Monday. Several entities including Entergy Arkansas, the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission and the U.S. Corps of Engineers were opening floodgates on the lakes they manage to try to handle any rainfall overflow and keep flooding to a minimum.

In Camden, where one of the three flood warnings was issued along the Ouachita River Monday, organizers of the annual Camden Daffodil Festival were cementing a plan B. The event scheduled to kick off Friday brings thousands of visitors from at least five states to southwest Arkansas to see millions of flowers.

Vice Chair of the festival committee Amanda Wunnenberg said the organizers are not unfamiliar with uncooperative weather.

“We kind of have a joke about the weather around here. We can only talk to the Lord about the weather. We’ve had everything: wind snow, ice, rain. You just plan ahead and don’t let it slow you down,” she said.

Last year a late season snow and ice storm blanketed the city the weekend of the festival, and Wunnenberg said people still came from all over.

“Last year, we didn’t have a plan B when the snow and ice came in. We got in gear and pulled it out with the help of the police and sheriff and others who helped clear the roads,” she said. “This year, we’re ready.”

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