Albert Pike Flash Flood Disaster 10 Years Ago
In the middle of a drought, we had one of the biggest flash flooding disasters in Arkansas history during the early morning hours of June 11th, 10 year ago.
An area of low pressure was cut off from the main flow over Texas. The weak upper level winds in the region would not allow the disturbance to move in and out. Instead, the slow movement of the system produced showers and thunderstorms which dumped copious amounts of rainfall. This along with plenty available moisture allowed rainfall rates to reach 2-3 inches per hour.
During the early morning hours on Friday June 11th, the low began to move into western Arkansas. Rain developed and trained over the same area for several hours in southwestern Montgomery county. There were several conditions that came together to make this an extremely deadly event for people at the Albert Pike Recreation Area.
People were asleep and not weather aware.
Rainfall rates were extremely high over several hours
Water run off from the mountains surrounding the camp site caused a rapid river rise
Lack of information... getting the warnings to the campers was difficult.
The area of low pressure is "cut off" from the main flow. This results in a very slow movement of the entire storm system. As it sits over Texas, it produces flash flooding with several inches to 1 foot of rainfall.
On Thursday June 10th, the area of low pressure cut off from the main flow began to drift to the north slowly. The target area for the heaviest rainfall was along its track across western Arkansas
The low finally begins to move north after dumping more than 6'' of rain across west central Arkansas during the early morning hours of Friday June 11th.
The camp site was surrounded by mountains. The water ran off into the Little Missouri River causing a rapid rise.
Graph showing the rapid rise of the Little Missouri River a few miles south of the Albert Pike Recreation Area. The left axis shows the level in feet. It jumped almost 20 feet in 3 hours.
The area was not served by NOAA weather radio due to ongoing issues locating a site for a tower and transmitter. Slightly less than two years prior to the disaster, a cell phone tower with the weather radio transmitter collapsed. After the cell phone company decided not to rebuild the tower, the National Weather Service was forced to find a new location. It was not until after the Albert Pike Recreation Area flash flood that a new NOAA weather radio transmitter was operational on "High Peak". After extensive testing, the National Weather Service says the camp is now better served with warnings.
NOAA weather radio coverage prior to the 2008 tower collapse