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Pryor: Simple, low-tech flood warning system needed

The flash flood catastrophe at the Albert Pike campground in Southwest Arkansas has multiple agencies, even Senator Mark Pryor trying to find a way to make sure nothing like this happens again.
The flash flood catastrophe at the Albert Pike campground in Southwest Arkansas has multiple agencies, even Senator Mark Pryor, (D) Arkansas, trying to find a way to make sure nothing like this happens again. The biggest problem is getting severe weather warnings to people in remote areas.

The National Weather Service flash flood warning issued early Friday morning went out over the weather radios. But the signal couldn't reach campers at the Albert Pike campground in Montgomery County. Senator Mark Pryor met with the U.S. Forest Service to talk over some solutions.

You'll find weather radio towers all across Arkansas but the one at Mount Ida in the vicinity of the Albert Pike campground fell two years ago and hasn't been replaced. Even so those at the National Weather Service say it wouldn't have helped campers.

Those at the National Weather Service says the problem with weather radios at a campground like Albert Pike is that the sides of the mountain are so steep a signal just won't reach.

John Robinson with the service says one of the best solutions for remote areas like the Albert Pike Campground would be a system of stream gauges that detect rising water levels. They transmit a signal to emergency workers so they can warn people through sirens for instance.

Robinson said, "Some of the newer sirens, after it whirls around, a voice can come over a loud speaker saying this emergency is: tornado, flash flood, a hazardous materials spill."

Senator Pryor said, "The truth is that's why people go there is because it is remote and they can get away from the TV and the cell phone and all that."

Pryor says that presents a challenge for anyone trying to warn campers about approaching danger like a flash flood. Pryor talked with the U.S. Forest Service about some low tech, low cost solutions like possibly painting a line around the campground to show just how high the water got.

He said, "To remind people about this tragedy and remind people that even though it's rare that you would have a flash flood in this area that it is a real threat."

Pryor says this is just the beginning of plans to make the campgrounds safer. And he says those with the Forest Service planned to work with him in the future to find an effective solution.
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