Blackwell cleans up after record-setting flood

Tuesday, September 16th 2008, 6:25 pm
By: News 9

By Charles Bassett, NEWS 9

BLACKWELL, Okla. -- Cleanup is underway for hundreds of families in Kay County. Heavy rains last week sent rivers over their banks and flood waters into more than 200 homes. One river reached record flood levels in Blackwell.

Heavy rains from a tropical storm lead to widespread flooding throughout areas of the county. The waters have receded, but the damage is still evident.

Homeowner Diana Backus said in the past few days, she needed a boat to get to her house, but recently, she was allowed back into the home to begin the cleanup process.

"You can high it got in here," Backus said. "I ripped out all my carpet, all the bottom of my furniture is wet."

Backus has flood insurance, but a majority of the flood victims aren't covered for the type of natural disaster.

Many homes were condemned, but residents continue to salvage the belongings they can.

"The mud is about two to three inches thick on floors," relative of flood victim Jon Fink said. "It got about 12 to 18 inches in the house."

After the shelters closed, many flood victims chose to stay with relatives. Damage assessment teams continued to survey the flooded areas, but the city's emergency manager, Jim Inmon said overall, the people in Blackwell are persevering through their circumstances.

"Most of the people have returned to their homes," Inmon said. "They just want to get in there and get what they can out, get everything cleaned up and start the process all over again."

Starting over is something the members of Blackwell Tabernacle Church didn't expect. The flooding left about two feet of water inside the church.

"Water came just above these alters," Pastor Robert Johnson said.

Volunteers continued to help the congregation make progress in the cleanup process, and despite the damage, the pastor said his faith is intact.

"My faith couldn't be shaken when I saw the army of people that came here to help me and donating things," Johnson said.

The church is using a separate building to hold services. FEMA will tour Blackwell and other affected areas Wednesday. They'll look at the damage and evaluate the possibility of providing government money to home and business owners.