Toddler's death at Cummins Falls prompts questions about alerts

A total of 63 people were rescued after a flash flood made conditions dangerous near the gorge, officials said. A two-year-old was swept away by the sudden rush of water./ Source: WTVF
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)-- The National Weather Service has requested a change for the criteria for sending alerts in order to keep park-goers safe, according to CBS affiliate WTVF.

The change was prompted by a two-year-old who died over the weekend when a flash flood hit the area of Cummins Falls.

According to officials, the toddler was in the river Sunday, without a life jacket while being carried by a family member.

Park rangers reported crews evacuated more than 64 people, many by water or rope rescue as the water reached dangerous levels in just two minutes.

The two-year-old's death marked the third death in the state park over the past two years. Which raised the question if more should be done to improve visitors safety.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said they will conduct a detailed review of the incident.

TDEC plans to evaluate park policies, procedures, and provide input on potential changes to the system.

NWS worked with Tennessee State Parks following the death of a 73-year-old woman killed by flood waters in 2017 to improve communication.

An agreement was made to notify state park officials of flood alerts if rainfall in the areas reached one or two inches.

The current criteria is below the standard as the park does not have to see rain to get flooded since it is surrounded by large amounts of water.

"Any rain that falls in that area [watershed] is going to end up going through the park. So they could be rain-free but the rain that falls will flow north to the falls," NWS Meteorologist-in-Charge Larry Vannozzi told WTVF.

Vannozzi also hopes to one day see automated rain gauges installed throughout the watershed to get a better assessment. Currently, the team relies on Doppler radar which gives estimates.

The park has three full-time rangers as well as numerous seasonal staff. There is no camera or signal device installed at the park.

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