OUACHITA NATIONAL FOREST – Some people awoke to roaring floodwaters. Others were roused by panicked banging on their cabin doors. At least a few got out of bed and were plunged almost immediately into deep, churning water.
Vacationing families camped in a remote Arkansas valley had only a moment or two in the darkness to escape from the worst flood to hit this area in nearly 30 years. For at least 18 people, it wasn't enough.
The deadly wall of water that rushed through a region southwest of Little Rock struck with such force that witnesses could hear trees being ripped apart and lumber buckling in homes that had been smashed.
Terry Whatley was staying at the Albert Pike Recreation Area with a group of about 35 friends and relatives. Around 3:30 a.m. Friday, someone pounded on the door of his camper to warn of the rising water.
He gathered everyone and got out into ankle-deep water. Soon it rose to up to their chests as they tried to reach higher ground.
"I just started thinking to myself, 'This is a bad way to die,'" said Whatley, whose group included three people who were confirmed killed in the flash flood. [...] go read the rest.
A bad way to die. Most had no choice but to venture into the floods.
Some say it will take a few weeks to perform a decent search.
Anxious family members toured the campground Sunday where their loved ones were staying when they were swept away by a flash flood, allowed to see for themselves the steep terrain that made escaping the rising water in darkness so difficult.
About 20 people from two families were brought to the site — the only people still remaining at a nearby church to wait for word of the missing. Rescue commanders helped the families find their loved ones' campsites and to gather heartbreaking mementos, including baby pictures and a child's blanket.
"It's just overwhelming for them. It looks like a war zone here," said the church's pastor, Graig Cowart, who accompanied the group. [...]
Bad day in Arkansas.
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