Arkansas flash floods kill at least 16 people

Arkansas flash floods kill at least 16 people

Saturday, June 12, 2010


••• A flash flood in a valley campground in the U.S. state of Arkansas has left 20 known dead and an estimated 36 people missing as of Friday afternoon, hours after a 24-hour rainfall caused creeks, streams and rivers to rise from 3 feet to about 20 feet, covering campgrounds, low-lying roads, vehicles and sleeping campers.

“It was like a big wall of water that came through,” said Jesse Lowery, whose family owns Lowery’s Camp Albert Pike leasing office for campsites and cabins.

No one was killed or among the missing from his campgrounds, he said, but his site sits next to government-controlled land used for forestry and public camp sites. As of Friday afternoon, search operations were continuing by the Arkansas State Police, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies from the air and ground in efforts to locate and rescue stranded survivors.

“We’re in southwest Arkansas, up here in the mountains, and everybody – state police, forest service, fish and game – everybody is throwing everything they can at this,” Lowrey said.

According to the National Weather Service’s Weather Forecast Office web site, 24-hour rainfall during June 10 and ending at 7 am June 11 caused flash flooding at the thickly timbered Albert Pike Recreation Area in Montgomery County, Arkansas, with reported fatalities, missing people and rescues of water-stranded campers.

“There are several small creeks and streams that run through the campground, including the Little Missouri River. These tributaries rose rapidly during the event due to at least six inches of rain in just a few hours. The Little Missouri River, which runs through the area, climbed almost 20 feet in just a few hours,” read an alert posted Friday on the National Weather Service’s site.

Bill Sadler, Arkansas State Police spokesman, was unavailable for comment Friday, but earlier stated on CNN that the state police were actively involved in the search.

“The search will continue,” Sadler said. “There may be people alive that we haven’t gotten to.”

Sadler described the area as a thickly wooded, making visibility of the grounds from the air difficult. The remote location of the campgrounds, situated in a valley between mountain peaks, also contributed to the difficulty of getting searchers into the area.

“We can’t get enough people in there,” he said.

Sadler estimated that the waters had risen high enough to reach a 23-foot mark in the campgrounds within the space of a few hours.

Lowrey’s Camp Albert Pike web site, http://www.campalbertpike.com, extols the tranquil, natural beauty of the area and challenges for canoe enthusiasts on the nearby Little Missouri river. The area occasionally reveals arrowheads and other evidence of early inhabitants, the Caddo Native Americans and, in the 1850s, homesteading settlers.

The campgrounds were named for Civil War Confederate Gen. Albert Pike, who had traveled through the area and is best known for his books he wrote about Free Masons.

Governor of U.S. state of Arkansas Mike Beebe on Friday said the flood that killed at least 16 people was one of the worst disasters he has seen as governor.

“It’s devastating,” Beebe said as he visited a church where family members of deceased and missing campers are gathered in prayer.

“You’ve got family that have lost children and grandchildren. A man’s lost his dad and they can’t find his mom,” he said, flanked by members of his staff, the Arkansas National Guard and Arkansas State Police.

“It’s heartbreaking, it’s heart-wrenching when you see the personal loss to the families themselves, it’s pretty tragic,” Beebe said as he visited the disaster area.

At least 16 people are confirmed dead after flash floods washed away a camp site in Montgomery and Pike counties, some 75 miles west of Little Rock, on Friday morning.
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