Thursday evening after work I traveled to Glenwood to pick up a load of windshields. As I traveled I was watching the weather because there were supposed to be storms on the way. It was raining lightly but I had returned home before the it started raining harder. After I had made it home, the sky turned a green color and we were a bit nervous, but when we checked the TV and internet we found that we were not under any watches or warnings. Soon after I got to work Friday morning, Gina called me and told me that there had been terrible flooding at the Albert Pike Campground with many dead and many missing. The Caddo and Little Missouri Rivers had flooded during the night.
The Albert Pike Campground is located about 45 minutes from Mena over gravel roads deep in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains. The last information that I have heard is that at least 16 people including a number of children have lost their lives in the flood, though the death toll is expected to rise as more than seventy people are missing. Up to 30 people have already been rescued in the Albert Pike Campground area, and rescue crews are now searching the area on horse-back.
The flood was caused by up to nine inches of rain that fell in the early morning hours, catching many campers at Albert Pike Campground off-guard. Rescuers are having a hard time getting to the area due to the heavy rains, flooding and washed out roads.
The park is situated in a valley between two heavily forested hills, near the Little Missouri River. The "Little Missouri" usually has a water level that is so low, it looks more like a creek. People can easily wade across the river. Last night the Little Missouri got hit with 8 to 9" of rain within a very short period of time. The water level went from 3 feet to 23 feet from midnight to around 3:00am.
Rescuers are searching for anyone still missing. Family members have reported more than seventy people missing after the normally peaceful rivers rose as much as eight feet in an hour. The flood stage on the Caddo River near Caddo Gap was within 1 foot of the previous record. I traveled through Caddo Gap Thursday evening.
A U.S. Forest Service spokesman says it would have been impossible to warn everyone at a the Albert Pike campground that a flood was coming because cell phone service is spotty and there are no sirens in the sparsely populated area. Some parts of the valley are so steep and craggy that the only way out is to hike downstream. Any hikers who had taken cars to the campsites would have been blocked at low-water bridge crossings that are inundated when the rivers rise.
The raging torrent poured through the valley with such force that it peeled asphalt off roads and bark off trees. Cabins dotting the river banks were severely damaged. Mobile homes lay on their sides.
My prayers are with the families that have suffered loss, and with those who have family members missing. I can't imagine their agony.
This is the second time that I have been so close to a tragic flash flood. On July 31, 1976, while we were living in Loveland, Colorado a violent rainstorm sent a rampaging wall of water through Big Thompson Canyon. The massive flood killed 144 people. Gina and I along with my family had been picnicking along the banks of the Big Thompson River that afternoon. When it started to rain we packed up and drove home through heavy rain. We didn't know there had been a flood until the next morning. Today's tragic events brought all those memories flooding back.
Events such as these floods always bring questions to my mind. Why do these terrible things happen and why have I been spared? I don't have the answers as to why so many tragedies happen. I do know that ever since sin came into this world through Satan there have been terrible tragedies. I suppose that Adam and Eve asked "why" when Cain killed his brother Abel.
The only promise that a Christian has in this life is that there will be trouble. Our trouble free existence will be in Heaven where God will wipe away all tears.
Why do bad things happen? Because we live in a sinful world. I know that's not the kind of answer we like, but there is no better answer available.
I am eagerly looking forward to the day when "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away".
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I was born in 1956 in Madison, Tennessee, while my parents were attending Madison College. I grew up along the Front Range in Colorado, attending schools in Longmont, Brighton, Boulder and Loveland, Colorado. Two years after graduating from Campion Academy, I married my sweetheart, Regina. We lived in Loveland, Colorado for six years before moving to Mena in western Arkansas.
I love the people of Mena and the friendly easy going way of life here. I have owned and operated my own business since moving to Mena. I enjoy the natural beauty of western Arkansas and being out of doors.
My newspaper column in The Mena Star, An Arkie’s Faith, premiered on January 7, 2016. In March 2017, I published my first book, titled An Arkie's Faith, using articles from the column.