Assistant City Manager M.T. Berry peered down a stairwell Saturday afternoon at the submerged basement door of Oklahoma City's finance and information technology building.
The stairs Berry stood on were covered in mud left behind from floodwaters. Hours earlier, his head would have been below the water line in the building. He said he's never seen anything like the flooding that struck downtown after Friday's storms.
“And I've worked for the city for 43 years,” Berry said.
Most downtown buildings with a basement suffered flood damage after Friday's storms. Devon Tower was closed Saturday while workers dealt with flooding in the basement, company spokesman Chip Minty said.
City spokeswoman Kristy Yager said the storm drainage system just couldn't keep up as seven inches of rain fell in a matter of hours.
“We just had massive flooding,” Yager said. “Many city buildings have basements that took on water.”
City Hall, the municipal court building, police headquarters, Cox Convention Center and Chesapeake Energy Arena all had some flooding. The worst was at the finance and information technology building at 100 N Walker.
Workers pumped nine feet of water out of the building by Saturday afternoon and still had six feet more to go. The flood took out half of city government's phone lines. The other half of the phone system was in another location, Yager said.
Yager said the storms were particularly tough for city officials to respond to because of the multiple ways they threatened life and property.
“Our emergency responders were ready to deal with a tornado,” Yager said. “We had several reports of tornadoes, then it quickly turned into a flooding event that was even more dangerous.”
Elemental Coffee at NW 8th Street at and North Hudson Avenue was flooded with between eight and 10 inches of water on Friday night, but the water had receded by morning, said co-owner Steve Michael. Stains on the cafe's drywall show the water rose to nearly a foot inside.
Elemental was serving coffee again by 10 a.m.
“We love our customers — they even helped us sweep and mop,” he said.