Deadly Arkansas floods highlight flash flood danger

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We don’t yet know the final death toll from the devastating Arkansas flash flood. What we do know is that this was a classic flash flood event in many respects.

The event featured:

-Localized heavy rainfall

-Heavy thunderstorms at night

-A remote campground in a canyon next to a river, where many people likely had no warning devices

Here’s the summary from the Little Rock NWS.

From AP:

Arkansas flash floods kill at least 20 people

By JILL ZEMAN BLEED (AP) – 56 minutes ago

CADDO GAP, Ark. — Floodwaters that rose as swiftly as 8 feet an hour rushed into a remote Arkansas valley early Friday, killing at least 20 people, many of them campers who became trapped by a devastating wall of water. Dozens more were missing and feared dead.

Heavy rains caused the normally quiet Caddo and Little Missouri rivers to climb out of their banks during the night. Around dawn, floodwaters barreled through the Albert Pike Recreation Area, a 54-unit campground in the Ouachita National Forest that was packed with vacationing families who were probably still asleep when their tents began to fill with water.

Two dozen people were hospitalized. Authorities rescued 60 others.

Check out the CNN description of the event. It does a good job of illustrating the dangers of flash floods.

You may remember the deadly August 2007 flood event in southeast Minnesota also occurred at night.

PH

  • http://www.thereandbackbooks.com Andrew Slade

    There’s a great book about flash floods in the desert Southwest, The Desert Cries by Craig Childs. Travellers and campers out there are well-warned about flash floods, maybe because they are slightly more routine. During the monsoon season of summer, nearly every thunderstorm triggers a flood somewhere. Hikers know to listen even for distant thunder, and campers know to put up their tents high above the stream beds. Riverside campers in Arkansas probably never even considered the possibility of such a massive flood.

  • http://www.twooaksmn.com Lorelei

    Is this long soaker helping to alleviate the long-standing lack of rain that we’ve experienced over the past 9 years? Our pond in Chisago county looked better after hours and hours of rain, but not great. How’s the North Shore for rainfall totals?

    Thank you!

  • Paul Huttner

    There’s a great book about flash floods in the desert Southwest, The Desert Cries by Craig Childs. Travellers and campers out there are well-warned about flash floods, maybe because they are slightly more routine. During the monsoon season of summer, nearly every thunderstorm triggers a flood somewhere. Hikers know to listen even for distant thunder, and campers know to put up their tents high above the stream beds. Riverside campers in Arkansas probably never even considered the possibility of such a massive flood.

    Posted by Andrew Slade | June 13, 2010 11:21 AM

    Hi Andrew:

    You are so right. My 9 years in Tucson was an eye opener for just how quickly flash floods can sweep through a normally dry “wash” even if the storm that produced the rainfall is miles upstream.

    The river in Arkansas rose an incredible amount in just minutes, and about 20 feet in just over 3 hours. Most of the rain fell upstream in narrow canyons, a recipe for disaster.

    PH

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    Is this long soaker helping to alleviate the long-standing lack of rain that we’ve experienced over the past 9 years? Our pond in Chisago county looked better after hours and hours of rain, but not great. How’s the North Shore for rainfall totals?

    Thank you!

    Posted by Lorelei | June 14, 2010 12:57 AM

    Hi Lorelei:

    It’s true that drought has basically bisected the metro this year. In your neck of the woods, the northeast metro continues see drought, while here in the west metro the ponds are full and Lake Minnetonka is plenty high.

    I hope today’s rain will bosst your pond a little more, and yes the wet June is helping. The North Shore continues to see drought, but is also recovering with each rainfall.

    PH