Tropical Storm Isaac slowed down and weakened Wednesday (Aug. 29) after sidestepping New Orleans but still posed a potential flooding threat to Arkansas, where emergency officials were on alert to respond to any problems and some people were canceling travel plans for the upcoming holiday weekend, the Associated Press reported.
The track of the newly downgraded storm shifted west Wednesday, with the eye projected to reach northwest Arkansas by 1 p.m. Friday. It had been forecast to head through the middle of the state, and the track could change again. Downpours of up to 20 inches were possible.
Isaac came ashore late Tuesday as a Category 1 hurricane, with 80 mph winds near the mouth of the Mississippi River. It drove a wall of water nearly 11 feet high inland.
With the Labor Day weekend approaching, the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department had plenty of cancellations at state campgrounds and lodges, many from Louisiana residents who decided to stay home because of the storm, agency spokeswoman Kat Robinson said.
At Maumelle Park campground on the Arkansas River just west of Little Rock, Tom Anderson, 80, was packing up his RV, but only so he could move to another campground in the area. He worked under a blue sky on a mild, breezy day with a few white clouds in the sky.
“I’m not concerned about (the storm). Weather’s weather,” Anderson said. “If the water’s coming up, they get you out of here.”
That hasn’t always been the case.
More than two years ago, a flash flood killed 20 people, including seven children, at a southwest Arkansas campground. The U.S. Forest Service has acknowledged it had no emergency warning system in place at the Albert Pike Campground. The flood struck in the middle of the night during an intense rainstorm, sweeping away vehicles, RVs and camper trailers that were at the campground along the Little Missouri River.
Camping is no longer allowed at the site and the Forest Service has changed its policies on warning campers in national forests.
Robinson said the storm could be clear of Arkansas in time for people to camp Saturday night. She suggested hotels should start offering special deals or coupons.
“It may be a beautiful weekend,” Robinson said.
Though Isaac’s tendrils were still far off Wednesday, the National Weather Service in North Little Rock issued a flash flood watch for most of Arkansas.
The weather service has cautioned that drought has weakened a lot of trees and Isaac’s rain and wind, expected to be between 20 mph and 30 mph, could knock down trees and power lines. Also, tropical storms can generate supercell thunderstorms that can spin off tornadoes with little warning.
Gov. Mike Beebe said electric companies have additional workers coming into the state in case of damage to power lines. He also said emergency personnel around the state are on alert.
Beebe said he has talked with federal Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who has offered assistance to the state if it’s needed.
“The bigger issue is what about our own people and what damages are going to occur, either in a temporary interruption of electric service or the need for flash flooding relief or flooding relief in terms of evacuation of our own people in low-lying areas, and certainly the economic issues surrounding, particularly what it could do with the row crops in eastern Arkansas,” Beebe said.
At a campground in North Little Rock, New Orleans resident Scott Cruise, a nurse anesthetist from New Orleans, was traveling with his father, Grover Cruise, of Laurel, Miss.
They left home day earlier than planned to miss evacuation traffic and any rough weather. They were stopping at the campground while on their way to a bluegrass festival in Eminence, Mo. Scott Cruise plays in the band Louisiana Grass.