Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters Wednesday that nine levee breaches have been identified in Randolph County, three of them major, and said he has authorized additional resources to respond to flooding in northeast Arkansas.
Hutchinson held a news conference at the state Capitol a day after flying over Randolph, Sharp and Lawrence counties in a helicopter to view flood damage.
The governor said that as of Wednesday afternoon, state personnel and vehicles responding to the deadly floods included 108 Arkansas National Guard members, 25 Arkansas National Guard vehicles equipped for high-water rescue and 23 Arkansas State Police personnel.
Four high-water teams were deployed in the affected areas, including 70 personnel engaged in security and traffic control, he said. When an evacuation is ordered, the state follows up by stationing security personnel in the area, he said.
Communication services are also important, Hutchinson said.
“Yesterday as I was in Pocahontas, they were very grateful for the Arkansas State Police communications center because their facilities had to be evacuated,” he said.
More than 500 evacuations have been carried out and six shelters have opened, Hutchinson said.
He told reporters that 27 counties have issued disaster declarations and noted that he has issued state disaster declarations for the affected areas as well. He said he expects the federal government to issue a disaster declaration later.
The governor noted that seven people have died and one child was missing Wednesday as a result of recent severe weather.
“My admonition to the public, particularly in northeast Arkansas, is to listen to the local authorities, and if they order evacuation, that you do so quickly,” he said. “The local authorities and response teams have more information on the rising flood waters, on the weather, on the circumstances and the need for the evacuation, and so don’t second-guess them.”
Hutchinson said Arkansans should not try to drive on roads when floodwaters are on them and should not go sightseeing.
“There is a temptation to be out, to look around, and that gets in the way of the emergency personnel,” he said.
Asked if he believes there is a need to review the condition of the state’s levees, Hutchinson said, “Once the rain subsides and we get back to normal, I have no doubt but that we’ll have to have continued review of where we are with the levee system of Arkansas.”
The focus now is on protecting lives and property, he said.