How Are Oklahoma Campers Being Protected From Flooding?

Saturday, June 12th 2010, 6:07 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley, The News On 6

CHEROKEE COUNTY -- Officials in Arkansas have released the names of 15 of the 18 victims in Friday's deadly flash flood. None of the victims are from Oklahoma, but six are children.

The News On 6 has been looking into what's being done to keep campers safe along the Illinois River.

A lazy Saturday afternoon on the Illinois was marked by kayakers and campers. Tony Frazer and family packed and went back home to Norman after roughing it for the past two days.

"We don't have a river in Norman, so it's something fun to do for the kids," said Frazer.

The tragedy in Arkansas shows how Mother Nature can quickly turn.

"We come out here for peace and tranquility and just to get away from it all, so for something like that to happen would be pretty surprising and I can't imagine what would happen to a campsite like this if the river flooded," said Frazer.

The experts who keep track of the river say swift water can be relentless and powerful, but predictable and there are a number of ways to know what it'll be like before you get there.

"If people just go to our website and look at the river," said Ed Fite, Scenic Rivers Commission.

Fite says there are monitors throughout the Illinois River watershed, some as far as 60 miles away at the river's headwater. Each one tracks the river as it rises and can give campers as much as an eight hour warning. All of the information is available online and is easy to track.

"This river changes colors. If you pull our map up and this river's yellow then you need to pay attention to yellow. If it's orange, pay attention to orange. If it's red, red and purple.

Fite's advice is simple -- check their website, don't camp right next to the river and have an escape route. Three steps to keep your next camping trip stress free.

National Weather Service River Forecast Center