Flood waters rising in Clay County, officials hoping sandbags, levee holds

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

CORNING/CLAY COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – Residents and city officials in Corning have been keeping a keen eye on the Black River in Poplar Bluff and closer to the city, after heavy flooding has been reported in Clay County.

According to Mayor Dewayne Phelan, many state highways have been closed, leaving Highway 67 north of Corning and south of Poplar Bluff, Missouri the only way in or out. Clay County Sheriff Gerald McClung told Region 8 News Highway 62 east of Corning and Highway 135 south of 62 were closed Wednesday morning.

"I've been here 35 years and it's the highest that I've ever seen it," said McClung.

According to the National Weather Service, the Black River at Corning is expected to crest at 18 feet Thursday. That's more than two feet above the level in 2008. The record flood level was 16.9 feet, set back in 1945.

"When I talked to Jerry Cook, the foreman with the highway department, and he and I decided it needed to be shut down because the water is getting too deep too quick," said McClung. "We just had heavy rain on this side of the county. The other side of the county, we haven't had nearly as much rain as we have here."

Phelan said more than 100 volunteers have been placing sandbags along a levee on the west side of the Black River, east of Corning. Phelan said more than 7,000 bags of sand have been filled and placed in an attempt to prevent flood waters from entering the city limits. Phelan said he's learned several levees have been breached or compromised in Butler County. He also said the city has been pumping thousands of gallons of water out of the city. Phelan said when the river crests, it will be about three or four days before the water totally recedes.

"I've been down south of here and all along the river, all of it's flooded. The fields, the river, the water is coming over the levees and it's a mess," said McClung. "Inside the city it's in pretty good shape. It's just surrounded by water and they are fixing sandbags over there for people to come in, if they can get them."

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Region 8 News was unable to get a camera into Corning Wednesday; however, the extent of flooding was visible from Highway 62. The bridge on Highway 62 east of Corning could barely be seen. Some residents who live out in the county were trying to save their belongings from the rapidly rising water.

"We knew it was coming. We just didn't' know if it would get in the house or not," said Linda Masterson, whose grandson had been helping her remove items from her flooded home.

"I do all my grocery shopping in Corning. I work at the school in the cafeteria and I work at a convenience store part time," said Masterson. "It's a mess. It's going to be a long time to get it cleaned up, but everybody says they'll help me."

Masterson said her home has never flooded before. In 2008, she said the water got within one inch of the inside of her home.

"I'm supposed to be out of a flood zone, but I'm in it. If it happens, it happens," said Masterson. "It's awful, but then I think it's not as bad as some. Some people don't have a home from tornadoes, where I still have a home; it's just flooded right now."

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