The Arkansas River is expected to reach flood levels considered “extremely dangerous and life threatening” on Saturday in the Fort Smith area, according to the National Weather Service.

NWS forecasters estimate the river on Sunday will rise to 41 feet in Crawford and Sebastian counties. 

The water total would break the Van Buren and Fort Smith flood records, according to NWS data.

Friday morning Crawford County Judge Dennis Gilstrap and Crawford County Department of Emergency Management Director Brad Thomas issued the following message: 

“In Van Buren and Crawford County there are approximately 26 miles of levee protection, between Mt. Vista and Mays Branch near Clear Creek park. During this historic event, our certified levees will be tested. With information provided by the Army Corp of Engineers, we are expecting to stay approximately four feet below the top of the levee.

We ask that you stay aware of the situation and please stay away from the levees and flood waters. City and county officials will be monitoring the levees during this historical flooding event.

The Crawford County Emergency Management is continuing to meet with city, county and state officials along the Arkansas River and will continue to participate in meetings and conference calls with Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and keep the public informed as we get more information."

The river at 3 p.m. Thursday had risen to 30.34 feet in Crawford and Sebastian counties. This was more than eight feet above flood stage, according to the NWS-issued flood warning.

The river reaches “near catastrophic” flood levels at 37 feet, the warning states.

Forecasters in the warning stated floods would reach the port of Fort Smith, nearby businesses, residential subdivisions around For Smith and trailer parks next to Lee Creek if flood waters reached this level.

Anyone forced to evacuate their home because of the floods may call the Red Cross for assistance at (855) 891-7325.