No warning system at flooded campground

    9:13 PM, Jun 12, 2010   |    comments
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    • Flooding from Albert Pike Campground

    Today's THV spoke with the U.S. Forest Service about what, if any, precautions could have been taken to warn the campers.

    The rugged terrain, 1.8 million acres, of the Ouachita National Forest attracts thousands in and outside of Arkansas each year.

    "It's an extremely popular campground; I've talked to people who remember coming here when they were little kids and now they're bringing their little kids out," said John Nichols, an information officer with the Forest Service.

    Nichols says there are two camp sites; one of them Albert Pike --the ground zero of Friday's devastation.

    "That record of who's actually stationed in that campground, that was lost along with that host of personal possessions and such," Nichols said.

    Without the camp registry, authorities are having trouble determining how many people are still missing. More than a dozen confirmed deaths and two days later, Nichols says it's not clear if anything could have been done.

    "You're dealing with a wild, scenic, wilderness area and people are coming in that area for a specific purpose," Nichols said. "They are coming in there to get away from their cell phones and TV; we're so used to our cell phones, even radio reception is not that good in the area, so the short answer is no."

    The campgrounds have hosts who help campers with any special needs they may have while on the grounds. Sheriff's deputies also patrol the area often, but there's no 24-hour security.

    There's also no warning system.

    "The fact that there wasn't a warning system, as I understand it, this was an event that a warning system wouldn't have done any good anyway.  You're dealing with a very tight drainage with mountains," said Nichols.

    He adds authorities will more than likely reassess the area in the near future, but for now the focus is on the human lives destroyed and the work to find any more victims out there.

    The Forest Service says the Albert Pike campground is officially closed; a lot of work will be needed to make it ready for campers again.

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