U.S. 63 closed until at least Monday, likely longer - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

U.S. 63 closed until at least Monday, likely longer

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UPDATED:  LAWRENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) –  U.S. 63 will be closed until at least Monday, but likely much longer according to Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department officials on the scene near Portia Saturday morning.  The flood waters have eaten away at the road bed and the integrity of the highway in the area by be at risk.

With flood waters deep from Clay through Jackson County over many roadways, there is no short cut across the Black River.  The last road between Poplar Bluff and Bradford closed Friday, U.S. 63, between Hoxie and Portia is leaving a long commute for many.  It is uncertain when many roads will reopen. 

"It is still running over in spots and the rest of it is about halfway submerged," said Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department District 10 Engineer Walter McMillan.

Because this water continues to flow over the highway the main thoroughfare is closed.

"It's really an inconvenience for the local travelers because a ten minute trip has become an hour trip," said McMillan.

"Anyone that needs to go from Walnut Ridge to Black Rock has got to go to Bald Knob," said County Judge Dale Freeman.

The road was the only way across the Black River from near Bradford on U.S. 67 to Poplar Bluff, Missouri to the north.  The best route for through traffic is U.S. 67 to Bradford or Bald Knob and U.S. 167 north through Batesville. 

McMillan said this is the first time since the early 80's that flood waters have closed the highway.  Many are already saying this is a bigger disaster.

"We didn't think it would be this bad because 1982 was one of the worst floods that we've had and at this running water ditch it is worse than it was in '82," said Freeman.

This water has traveled for miles across fields and through homes and the further it moves down stream the more it brings with it.  As this water continues to flow against the highway on one side and over it on the other the road is being eaten away.  Because of that McMillan said they don't know the condition of the road.

"At this time safety is the most important part of this," said McMillan.

McMillan said it is unclear when they will be able to open the road.

Sheriff Jody Dotson asks residents to use caution if they are in a low-lying area, and begs people to use common sense when it comes to water safety.  Do not drive in to areas where water covers the roadway.  It only takes a few inches of fast moving water to push a vehicle off the roadway. 

Emergency crews spent Friday rescuing people stranded by the floodwaters.  No evacuations have been ordered.

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