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Flash Flooding Swamps Campers And Strands Visitors

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

National Park News

The campers in Alley Spring campground were awakened at 4 a.m. on July 30th when their air mattresses began moving or objects started hitting the sides of their tents or trailers. Rain that had begun around 10 p.m. the previous evening had caused a flash flood that swamped the popular campground. In less than three hours, the Jack’s Fork River rose from six to ten vertical feet, depending on the location along the river. The flash flood missed the gauges at the upper part of the Jacks Fork and struck lower sections of the river. Park staff from all divisions, along with Missouri Water Patrol officers, evacuated the campers to higher ground. The campground had about 48 sites occupied by over 200 people. Many had to leave their tents, trailers, or vehicles in the water. In the haze of pre-dawn, officers used boats to rescue campers, taking them across the dark to bring them to safety. After the campground was evacuated, the officers searched the entire Jacks Fork River for canoeists who might be camping on gravel bars. Many private and commercial canoes had floated away during the night with the rising river.  No lives were lost, but there was a large amount of property damage to the campsites and to park visitors’ property, including vehicles or campers that were totally destroyed. Brad Conway served as the incident commander, and the established partnership with Missouri Water Patrol allowed for quick action. Upstream, Spring Valley endured a heavy mid-morning rainstorm. A group touring the Round Spring Cave emerged from the 2 p.m. tour to find the bridge crossing a small creek to be on one side of a torrential current.  Park protection rangers boated to the site and evacuated the 15 visitors plus interpreter to the opposite shore. The group remained calm and in good spirits, with the three children on the tour calling it an “adventure” and the adults exchanging e-mails to share their photos.



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