HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (August 26, 2020)— Due to anticipated significant rainfall from Hurricane Laura, Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests managers are encouraging visitors to use caution and be aware of potential recreation area closures.
Call ahead or visit the forest websites before traveling to ensure the developed recreation area you have included in your plans will be open.
The Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests will also post information to their Facebook pages at Ouachita National Forest: https://www.facebook.com/ouachitanf/ or Ozark-St. Francis National Forests: https://www.facebook.com/ozarkstfrancis/.
The National Weather Service has declared a flash flood watch through Friday evening. There may be significant wind and precipitation associated with this storm event. Visitors are encouraged to watch for fallen trees or limbs, flooded creeks, and potentially hazardous road conditions.
The number one weather-related cause of deaths in the United States is flash floods, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Flash flooding is a result of heavy localized rainfall such as that from slow-moving intense thunderstorms.
Flash floods often result from small creeks and streams overflowing during heavy rainfall. These floods often become raging torrents of water that rip through river beds, city streets, coastal sections, and valleys or canyons, sweeping everything with them. Often, flash floods have a dangerous wall of roaring water carrying rocks, mud, and other debris that can cause injuries or deaths. Before leaving home, remember to check the National Weather Service forecast and be alert for changing weather conditions while visiting the forest.
Devices like a weather radio, a terrestrial radio, and a smart-phone application can help visitors stay tuned-in during their outdoor activities.
Outdoor outings to National Forest areas during this time should be carefully considered. When camping inside or outside of developed areas, remember the following:
- Know the flood risk of the area where you plan to stay. Monitor the NOAA weather radio all hazards bulletins, or your local news stations for vital weather information.
- Stay alert for signs of heavy rain both where you are and upstream. Watch for rising water levels.
- If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Leave low-lying areas immediately.
- Don’t try to outrun a flash flood in your car. Climb to safety immediately.
- Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams. Remember: turn around; don’t drown.
- Don’t try to swim to safety; wait for rescuers to come to you.
- Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and rivers, particularly during threatening conditions.
- Be especially cautious at night, when it is harder to recognize and respond to danger.
- When possible, carry a NOAA weather radio.
- Many areas of the National Forests and other public lands do not have reliable cell phone service. Do not rely on weather alerts as your sole source of information.