Flood damage assessments ongoing in parts of Okla.

Monday, September 15th 2008, 10:56 am
By: News 9

BLACKWELL, Okla. (AP) -- Damage assessment teams were working Tuesday in flood-ravaged towns in northern Oklahoma while residents continued cleanup efforts.

In Kay County, state and local emergency management officials were looking at damage in Blackwell, parts of which were flooded after the Chikaskia River reached 35.2 feet on Sunday, the highest since measurements have been made and more than 6 feet above flood stage.

The Blackwell Tabernacle, a church about a quarter-mile from the river, had two feet of floodwater in its sanctuary and a basement nearly filled with water. In the back rooms, mud was thick enough to hide red tiling.

Senior Pastor Robert Johnson said the church does not have flood insurance, but remained confident enough funds would be raised to pay for the necessary repairs.

"We'll probably pray it in," Johnson said. "We always make it somehow. God helps us."

The flooding came after heavy rains from Tropical Depression Lowell inundated northwestern and north-central Oklahoma communities for more than two days. The Pacific storm entered the state on Thursday and dropped torrential rain in Blackwell, Burlington, Fairview, Lamont and Pond Creek.

In Fairview, more than 100 homes were affected by flooding after 11.81 inches of rain from the storm. Major County Commissioner Kelly Wahl said damage assessment teams started locating damaged sites on Monday and estimated that 100 to 125 miles of roads in the county had been damaged.

"There is not a dollar figure yet," Wahl said. "...We have a lot of bridges we haven't gotten to."

Alfalfa County Commissioner Doug Murrow said that damage assessment in that county began Friday and continued through the weekend. Burlington was particularly hard-hit, with some residents having to be evacuated after Turkey Creek exceeded its banks.

He said the county started making repairs on Monday, but said the rebuilding "will take several months. We have to take it one day at a time."

Like Wahl, Murrow said it was too early to have established a dollar amount for damaged, but estimated it will be "several hundred thousand dollars by the time we are done. Bridges washed out, roads washed out, you name it, we have it."

Grant County Commissioner Jerry Schaffer estimated 50 percent of roads and 40 percent of bridges or bridge approaches in his county will need repair.

The results of the various county assessments will help determine whether or not the state would request a federal disaster declaration, said state Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten.

The United Way of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma donated $40,000 to the Cimarron Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross on Monday to assist people who had been adversely affected by the flooding.

The Red Cross chapter had issued an emergency fundraising plea Friday night after realizing it did not have enough money to offer assistance to flood victims.

Delena Hardaway, a board member of the Red Cross chapter, said she visited Fairview to survey flood damage and came away impressed with the attitudes of people there.

"We heard it over and over: 'We are blessed. Others had it much worse. You should check with our neighbors down the road. They had it worse,"' Hardaway said.

"It was amazing. People were standing there ankle-deep in mud and water saying they were blessed."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)