Flooding Closes Roads, Schools; Damage Assessed

Oklahoman Published: October 6, 1998
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Severe weather struck again Monday in parts of Oklahoma, with heavy rain leading to flooding that caused road and school closings.

Meanwhile, assessment of damage caused by storms the night before continued.

Weather officials said at least nine tornadoes were chiefly responsible for the millions of dollars in damage caused by Sunday's storms. They warned the damage figure could grow significantly depending on the extent of flooding in some areas.

More than a dozen school districts canceled classes, and dozens of homes in northeast Oklahoma were evacuated Monday as creeks and rivers surged over their banks.

Damage statewide was expected to be in the tens of millions of dollars, said Jerry Johns, president of Southwestern Insurance Information Service, a trade association representing Oklahoma insurance companies.

A half-foot of rain poured Monday from dark skies across eastern Oklahoma, closing about a dozen schools, forcing residents from 35 homes in Miami as creek waters surged higher and knocking out 911 service in Tulsa .

"Our biggest concern is how much water we're getting up from the north, from Tar Creek," Miami City Administrator Michael Spurgeon said.

Spurgeon said flood waters had gotten into several homes. The American Red Cross set up shelters at a church and the civic center for evacuees fleeing the Neosho River, which was expected to crest 10 feet above flood stage Spurgeon said.

The National Weather Service said 5 to 6 inches fell between midnight and 7 a.m. Monday over a widespread area of central and eastern Oklahoma.

Flooding and a power outage in Southwestern Bell Telephone's main downtown building knocked out service in downtown Tulsa and some outlying areas.

The outage silenced the telephones at Tulsa's 911 center for about an hour.

Police called a shift of officers in early and placed them at major intersections to help handle emergencies. Wireless telephones were distributed to hospitals and officers in the affected area. But some pagers and cellular telephones weren't working.

Mayor Susan Savage knew of two incidents where residents went to fire stations with emergency calls. Police officers took about 10 calls from intersections before service was fully restored to the emergency agency by 3:15 p.m.

Sue McCain, a Bell spokeswoman in St. Louis said service was restored Monday night.

Ben Frizzell, public information officer for the state Office of Emergency Management, said his office had problems communicating with the eastern part of the state because phone lines were down in some areas and inundated with calls in others.

Flooding and other storm problems caused school officials to cancel classes in Quapaw , Jenks , Liberty Mounds , Inola , Kellyville , Pawnee , Leonard , Leach, Prague , Meeker , Shawnee , Frontier , Braman, McLeod and Avant . Buses in Bixby took schoolchildren home by midmorning. Schools in Jay , Keyes , Salina and Afton were dismissed after lunch.

Water was reported curb-deep through Claremore . Some low-lying roads in Tulsa were barricaded for the morning commute, and a major expressway - State Highway 51 from Broken Arrow - backed up for miles when one lane began to crumble.

Major flooding was forecast for the Verdigris River, causing problems for farmlands and rural roads in Nowata County between the Kansas border and the headwaters of Lake Oologah.

Major flooding also was predicted along Bird Creek to include Avant, Owasso and Sperry with depths to 3 feet on crops and pastures.

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