Monday, June 14, 2010

The pros and cons of being remote--and disconnected

Since learning Friday morning about the devastating flash floods that claimed 20 lives at an Arkansas campground (read more here and here), I've thought several times about how the remoteness of the location--an aspect of its rurality--may have influenced what happened and the ultimate outcomes in terms of death and injury. The New York Times reports on that issue today, focusing on the lack of communications service in the area. Here's the lede:
For many visitors and residents of this heavily forested region, the appeal is in the disconnect. Without so much as a cellphone tower near these vast campgrounds, some come here happy to leave behind their ties to the urban world, preferring a soundtrack of tweeting birds over a chirping BlackBerry.

But the absence of a modern communication network made it virtually impossible last week to quickly warn campers of an approaching downpour, which led to flash floods that tore through the Albert Pike campground, killing at least 19. Now, some have begun to rethink the value of being unplugged in this remote area about 75 miles west of Little Rock.

On a somewhat different note, tales of community are also emerging in media coverage of the disaster. Here's an excerpt from one of the New York Times stories, quoting Graig Cowart, minister of a church near the camp ground:

Mr. Cowart and Forest Service officials praised local residents and companies for providing more food and supplies than the families could possibly use. Wal-Mart, he said, had sent a truck with ice and bottled water. An appliance store delivered portable freezers.

“We’ve had local people here drive up with checks they’d signed blank,” Mr. Cowart said.

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