PAYNEWAY, AR (KAIT) – Residents in the small town of Payneway in Poinsett County spent the day Monday filling sandbags and building temporary levees as flood waters continue to rise. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, water from a large ditch has reversed flow, due to the already flooded Mississippi River.
"If you look at the Bay Ditch, it's running north instead of normally running south to drain the water out. So the back water out of the Mississippi has got it backed up, so we are running north and the water is backing up again into this community here," said Bobby Smith, treasurer of Corner's Chapel Baptist Church.
Smith said the last time the Payneway community flooded this badly was in 1973.
"Water is rising. We are here to assist in sandbagging a church members residence, and we're just filling sandbags. We've got a whole group from our community here that wherever houses are in danger of having water come in, we're supplying sandbags, full sandbags to put around the houses to make a moat," said Smith.
Region 8 News contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Memphis Monday afternoon. Officials revealed to us that the height of the Mississippi River is forcing water to reverse direction or slowly drain. Residents said the Seep Ditch is flowing north instead of south.
Smith said volunteers have made 2,000 sandbags. Volunteers include the youngest and oldest people who told Region 8 News they want to help.
A Corps spokeswoman said some residents have been asked to evacuate their homes. It's not known how much the flood water will rise because of the back water.
"It'll be under water and who knows how long it'll take it to dry out before farmers can get back in and put in a crop. So it's very serious, and it's the unknown because we don't know how the river, the Mississippi River is going to do to where this can start running south again and dry out, or how long it's going to take. It may be days. It may be weeks," said Smith.
Some residents spent the day digging trenches and moving all their belongings to higher ground.
"At this point it's precautionary measures. We're going to, we're trying to move everything out of the house just in case the water does get too high," said Bill Williams. "We had all that rain water here about a week ago. That was all about to disappear. There was very little left, and then starting Sunday, we noticed the water starting to rise. Didn't know why at first, and this is where we are at, and now they are expecting it to get even higher."
Sunday night, the Marked Tree Fire Department helped fill sandbags for residents who needed them. Razorrock Materials, out of Harrisburg, also donated sand to use in the fight against flooding.
"We're renting the house. This is the owners, and what they've decided to do is build a levee all the way around the house to try to protect the house. While we're trying to protect everything inside, they're trying to protect everything on the outside. So going both ways, maybe we'll be okay," said Williams.