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Floodwaters surging through Arkansas kept hundreds of people away from their homes - and snakebites rose as reptiles were driven from their nesting places - as rain-swollen rivers spilled their banks Tuesday and authorities braced for what could be the state's worst flooding in six decades. The Arkansas River continued rising and was expected to crest Tuesday in Little Rock, Ark., and Wednesday in Pine Bluff, Ark., about 40 miles downstream. More than 325 homes were evacuated in six counties along the river, said a spokesman for Arkansas Emergency Services.

No news deaths or serious injuries were reported in the state, but in central Arkansas, the rising waters of the Arkansas River have driven snakes from their homes. A hospital at Pine Bluff, which normally treats one snakebite victim a week, has treated eight in the past week. Spokesman Bill Cheatham said most were bitten by copperheads, but no one was seriously hurt.Overall, thirteen deaths have been blamed on the weather in the past two weeks, one in Oklahoma and the rest in Texas.

"All indications (say) this is going to be worse than (the 1973 flood) in terms of height. But in terms of damage, we're doing a lot better because there was a lot of preparation that took place between '73 and now," North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays said.


At least 150 people were evacuated and main roads closed in Trinidad, 60 miles southeast of Dallas. Near Palestine, 90 miles below Dallas, about 50 homes were destroyed or damaged in the community of Long Lake, where the Trinity River, usually a few hundred feet across, had bulged to about two miles.

"We can't tell exactly how many residences are affected yet, because we can't count underwater," said Bill Walters, manager of a Red Cross shelter set up in a campground.

While about 80 people had been evacuated from Long Lake by late Monday, many were reluctant to leave, Walters said. "These people are pretty stubborn, as all Texans are. They think they can stick it out, but they really can't do it," he said.

Residents of Trinidad said they were preparing for the flood as best they could, but some were clearly worried about their 35-foot-high, 12-mile-long levee.

"When the water starts going over, or breaks through, that Houston black clay will dissolve like sugar and the whole thing will be washed to the ground," said C.D. Wheatley, general manager of the Cresslen Ranch.