CADDO GAP, Ark. – Flash floods triggered by more than a half-foot of rain wiped away campsites along a pair of southwestern Arkansas rivers early Friday. State police said a dozen people were killed and several others were stranded.
The normally peaceful Caddo and Little Missouri rivers rose by 20 feet overnight, swamping hikers and campers spending the night in the remote and normally serene Ouachita Mountains. The area also includes second homes, hunting camps and U.S. Forest Service campgrounds.
"We don't know who was in there last night," State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said. "This is a very wide area."
Sadler said officials were moving in a refrigerated truck to set up a temporary morgue. Searchers were working along the Little Missouri River in Montgomery and Pike counties and the National Guard dispatched helicopters to help in the rescue.
Sadler said 12 people had been killed in the floods.
Gov. Mike Beebe, in Dumas for an economic develop announcement, said the deaths occurred about 5:30 a.m., when the water hit its peak. He said he did not plan to visit the site immediately.
"I don't want to get in the way," Beebe said. "There is an intense search-and-rescue attempt."
The Little Missouri west of Caddo Gap stood at 3 feet Thursday but after 7.6 inches of rain fell in the area overnight the level jumped to 23.5 feet by Friday morning. At 10 a.m. it had dropped to 11.5 feet.
The damage was centered around the Camp Albert Pike area, 75 miles west of Little Rock.
Rainfall totaled 7.6 inches at Glenwood, a weather reporting station about 20 miles from the scene, according to data from the National Weather Service at North Little Rock. Marty Trexler, a senior meteorologist, said heavy rain fell throughout the region before moving into northern Arkansas later Friday morning.