The Latest on severe flooding in Arkansas and Oklahoma (all times local):
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says a northeastern Oklahoma reservoir that’s releasing water into the rain-swollen Arkansas River has peaked and will reduce flows by the weekend.
Corps hydrologist David Williams said Wednesday that the level of Keystone Lake peaked on Tuesday “and is now dropping.” The reservoir is about 23 miles (37 kilometers) northeast of Tulsa.
Williams says flows from a hydroelectric dam at the reservoir will be reduced by Saturday from 275,000 cubic feet per second (7,787 cubic meters) to 150,000 cubic feet per second (4247 cubic meters).
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma says the additional flow in the Arkansas River has strained a levee system built in the 1940s that protects residential areas.
Inhofe is also the former mayor of Tulsa. He says “there have been problems” but that the levees are “still performing.”
Officials say the levee system along the Arkansas River is holding as the river nears a historic crest in western Arkansas.
Col. Bob Dixon of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the levee system is “performing admirably” as the river approaches its expected crest near Fort Smith, the state’s second-largest city. The crest is expected Wednesday.
Still, the river is nearly twice the level it was 10 days ago, and widespread flooding persists.
Dixon says the levee system will be strained as the rush of water moves downstream. He says floodwaters should begin to slowly recede in Fort Smith but that it will likely take weeks.
Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Melody Daniel says 45 homes have been affected by floodwaters in Sebastian County, but the number is expected to rise to “several hundred.”
One death has been attributed to the flooding. Authorities are urging people not to drive around barricades.
Thunderstorms are expected to bring unwanted rain to areas along the Arkansas River, which is predicted to crest Wednesday well above record levels in western Arkansas.
Forecasters nudged down by 1.5 feet the predicted crest near Fort Smith, the state’s second-largest city. But they say the river levels will still exceed the previous record there by several feet.
One death in Arkansas has been attributed to the flooding, which also persists in parts of Oklahoma. Two levees have been topped in rural areas of Arkansas.
In Tulsa, Mayor G.T. Bynum said Tuesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will continue releasing 275,000 cubic feet (7,787 cubic meters) per second to help drain the swollen Keystone Lake reservoir. Bynum says that number could increase depending on the rainfall.