CHOCTAW — Gary Buford watched helplessly this week as the raging North Canadian River inched closer and closer to his home, eating the shoreline a few yards at a time while taking trees and buildings with it.
By Thursday afternoon, the river bank that was once a couple of hundred feet east of Buford's back fence at 3800 N Triple X Road was within feet of his back porch, prompting authorities to force an evacuation.
The river swallowed one barn and took half another. The other half of the metal building teetered Thursday afternoon on the edge, ready to go over with the next crumbling of shoreline.
Buford and his wife, Rhonda, moved their belongings out of the house Thursday with help from neighbors and volunteers. He would like to believe his house will be spared, but he knows better.
“It's not going to make it,” Buford said. “The first time it rains, it's going to eat it right up.”
Flooding that began with record rainfall last Friday worsened along the river all week as new storms came through the area and dumped more rain, all of it draining into the river basin.
Buford said the river was out of its banks Saturday morning. Then it changed course, shifting east right through what used to be Buford's backyard.
“We saw it was wearing as early as Saturday,” Buford said. “It was just vicious. It hasn't let up.”
There are two houses on the property. Buford said his adult son lives in the smaller home. They started moving his things out early Thursday before police told them to stop. The river's edge is too close to the home, which could slide into the river at any moment.
Buford said he was astounded as the river moved closer and closer. He has lived on the property 10 years and has never seen it flood on this scale.
District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan, whose crews helped the Bufords move some of their things under a law that allows them to work on private property during disasters, said the same erosion threatening the Buford home also is causing problems for several county bridges.
Crews have been working to stabilize the bases of those bridges so they don't wash away.
“We've just never seen these kinds of water levels with this kind of speed,” Maughan said. “No one around here has. Major trees have fallen, and that has altered the course of the river.”
Buford said an insurance adjuster was headed to his home, which he expects will be a total loss. He doesn't know where his family will go, but he said he was thankful the gradual nature of the erosion at least allowed his family to save some of their things.
“We're getting out of here,” Buford said. “We're moving. I just thank God it wasn't a tornado or everything would have been gone in an instant.”