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Isaac prompts flash flood watch for Arkansas

Tropical Storm Isaac slowed down and weakened Wednesday but still posed a potential flooding threat to Arkansas, where emergency officials were on alert to respond to any problems and some people were canceling travel plans for the upcoming holiday weekend.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Tropical Storm Isaac slowed down and weakened Wednesday but still posed a potential flooding threat to Arkansas, where emergency officials were on alert to respond to any problems and some people were canceling travel plans for the upcoming holiday weekend.

The track of the newly downgraded storm shifted west Wednesday, with the eye projected to reach northwest Arkansas by 1 p.m. Friday. It had been forecast to head through the middle of the state, and the track could change again.

With the Labor Day weekend approaching, the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department had plenty of cancellations at state campgrounds and lodges, many from Louisiana residents who decided to stay home because of the storm, agency spokeswoman Kat Robinson said.

At Maumelle Park campground on the Arkansas River just west of Little Rock, Tom Anderson, 80, was packing up his RV, but only so he could move to another campground in the area. He worked under a blue sky on a mild, breezy day with a few white clouds in the sky.

"I'm not concerned about (the storm). Weather's weather," Anderson said. "If the water's coming up, they get you out of here."

That hasn't always been the case.

More than two years ago, a flash flood killed 20 people, including seven children, at a southwest Arkansas campground. The U.S. Forest Service has acknowledged it had no emergency warning system in place at the Albert Pike Campground. The flood struck in the middle of the night during an intense rainstorm, sweeping away vehicles, RVs and camper trailers that were at the campground along the Little Missouri River.

Camping is no longer allowed at the site and the Forest Service has changed its policies on warning campers in national forests.

Robinson said the storm could be clear of Arkansas in time for people to camp Saturday night. She suggested hotels should start offering special deals or coupons.

"It may be a beautiful weekend," Robinson said.

Though Isaac's tendrils were still far off Wednesday, the National Weather Service in North Little Rock issued a flash flood watch for most of Arkansas.

The weather service has cautioned that drought has weakened a lot of trees and Isaac's rain and wind, expected to be between 20 mph and 30 mph, could knock down trees and power lines. Also, tropical storms can generate supercell thunderstorms that can spin off tornadoes with little warning.

Gov. Mike Beebe said electric companies have additional workers coming into the state in case of damage to power lines. He also said emergency personnel around the state are on alert.

Beebe said he has talked with federal Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who has offered assistance to the state if it's needed.

"The bigger issue is what about our own people and what damages are going to occur, either in a temporary interruption of electric service or the need for flash flooding relief or flooding relief in terms of evacuation of our own people in low-lying areas, and certainly the economic issues surrounding, particularly what it could do with the row crops in eastern Arkansas," Beebe said.

Little Rock officials suggested residents make family emergency plans and have supplies ready in case electricity goes out.

"Our Public Works Department has staff checking locations where we have had issues of flooding and storm damage before and making sure they are open to function as well as they can," City Manager Bruce Moore said in a release.

Arkansas Children's Hospital was on alert to help treat patients from the storm zone and was to help with air and ground transportation, if needed.

"Our physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and pilots are prepared to be on stand-by for deployment at Clinton National Airport if the National Disaster Medical System is activated. We also are looking ahead to how Isaac may affect Arkansas in the next few days, spokesman Dan McFadden said in an email.

At a campground in North Little Rock, New Orleans resident Scott Cruise, a nurse anesthetist from New Orleans, was traveling with his father, Grover Cruise, of Laurel, Miss.

They left home day earlier than planned to miss evacuation traffic and any rough weather. They were stopping at the campground while on their way to a bluegrass festival in Eminence, Mo. Scott Cruise plays in the band Louisiana Grass.

"We didn't want to ride in the rain," said Grover Cruise, 72, as he filled a water tank on their bus.

Scott Cruise said his hospital had called and asked if he could come to work.

"I'm in Little Rock, Ark. There's no way to get there right now," he said. "You can't get in or out."

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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