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Anxiety rises with river levels on Mississippi

Anxiety rises with river levels on Mississippi
Producer harvests wheat prematurely to save crop from rising Mississippi River. Mississippi River to crest Sunday at Arkansas City.

Anxiety is rising along with river levels as the bulging Mississippi is forecast to crest this week between Osceola and Arkansas City.

“The situation is very serious down here, I talked with some producers across the river and was told they are worried about things around Rolling Fork, Miss.,” said Gus Wilson, Chicot County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “There are so many rumors, it is hard to know what is fact or fiction -- people are on the edge.

“So far we have not had any major flooding, just some water seepage in farmland next to the levee, but that is a common thing. The (Army) Corps (of Engineers) has stated that our system will hold up 72 feet.”

The Mississippi River was expected to crest at 47.7 feet on Monday at Osceola, where the flood stage is 28 feet. The river was to crest at 48 feet (flood stage, 34 feet) in Memphis, Tenn., on Tuesday.  Crest is forecast at 56.5 feet on Thursday at Helena-West Helena, where flood stage is 44 feet. Forecast crest at Arkansas City is expected next Sunday, May 15, at 53.5 feet, well above the 37-foot flood stage.

River forecasts are available at

Some 300 acres of winter wheat in Phillips County was being harvested green in attempt to salvage it from the rising Mississippi River.

Robert Goodson, Phillips County extension agent said one producer was planning to bale the green wheat in plastic to use as silage, an aged, undried form of livestock feed. 

“It’s being mowed down and baled green before the river floods it,” said Jason Kelley, wheat and feed grains agronomist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Winter wheat in Arkansas is maturing toward harvest in June and has endured weeks of high winds, heavy rain and pummeling from large hail.

“I think this wheat survived all of the other weather, now the river coming up and going to get it,” Kelley said.

On Sunday, the river overtopped an abandoned levee about seven miles east of Eudora in Chicot County, the state’s southernmost county along the Mississippi. The Corps said the flooding will affect about 500 acres of farmland.

The Mississippi River drains 41 percent of the continental United States. The Army Corps of Engineers said Friday that rainfall during the last two weeks was 600 percent above normal.

The forecast from the Little Rock office of the National Weather Service shows the next chance for rain is Wednesday and Thursday.

For more information on crop production and disaster recovery, contact your county Extension agent or visit and

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