Officials said motorists should stay home and not underestimate the danger of driving on flooded city streets as flash flood warnings continued for the Oklahoma City area.
Radar showed storms tapering off in northwest Oklahoma County with activity continuing generally along and southeast of I-44. However, rainfall rates of 1 to 3 inches per hour will continue to be likely until the activity clears the Oklahoma City metro, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management reported.
Reports of 6 to 8 inches of rain received since the early morning hours are common across the Oklahoma City area with some areas receiving more than 9 inches.
From 4:15 a.m to 12:30 p.m., the Oklahoma City North Mesonet Station received 10.07 inches of rain. The recording device is located on The Oklahoman property near Britton Road and Broadway Extension.
As of 11 a.m., 5.88 inches of rain had fallen at Will Rogers World Airport, setting a daily record for June 14. The previous record was 3.95 inches in 1930.
Emergency Medical Services Authority paramedics responded to 136 emergency calls with 87 patients taken to local hospitals by 2 p.m. today. About half those calls were more than likely unrelated to the weather, spokeswoman Lara O'Leary said.
EMSA medics were involved in 5 water rescues and took one of those people to a local hospital.
Eleven calls came into the 911 center as 'unknown problem' and were determined to be motorists stranded in their cars due to flooding waters. From those calls, four patients were taken to local hospitals. Ten people called 911 complaining of a fall, some related to high water flow, and seven patients were taken to the hospital. Eighteen car crashes around the metro resulted in six patients being taken to the hospital.
Swift water rescues are underway in some areas of Oklahoma City and travel is discouraged in many regions.
Motorists are urged to obey road closing barricades. It only takes a minimal amount of moving water for cars to be swept away and there may be unseen damage to the road. For information regarding Oklahoma road conditions, call 888-425-2385.
"I have never been this scared," Oklahoma City spokeswoman Kristy Yager said. "This is way worse than driving in the ice. The water is so deep. The visibility is so low."
Although the worst flooding was on city streets, highways are also moving slowly, officials said. Capt. Chris West, spokesman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, said there is some high water on Interstates in central Oklahoma.
"It's mostly on ramps and off ramps," West said. "Most of the flooding is on the secondary roads. Traffic is slow and we do have some crashes. We don't want anyone driving into high water. Our response times can be affected because we are driving through the same things they are."
In Oklahoma County the following highways are closed due to flooding:
• U.S. Highway 62 between Sooner Road and Air Depot
• U.S. Highway 62 between Henney and Choctaw Roads
• State Highway 66 at Westminster and Anderson
• Interstate 40 onramp at Council Road.
Downtown Oklahoma City flooded
Yager said the city's stormwater drainage system simply can't keep up with the amount of rain that has fallen in the city in the last few hours. Rainfall totals of as much as 7 inches have been recorded in some parts of the city.
"Downtown is flooded," Yager said. "We have a few traffic lights that are out causing problems. Stalled vehicles are causing problems. Crews are in the same situation that our travelers are in. They are stuck in this traffic as well."
Yager said those already on the road or considering driving need to understand the danger they face.
"They need to find a parking area on high ground and just wait for this to pass," Yager said. "This is treacherous. They can be late to work. Their life depends on it."
At one point, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission reported about 6,700 power outages related to the storm, including 6,595 OG&E customers (6,382 in the Oklahoma City area), and 60 PSO customers mainly in the Bixby area.
Flooding in Central Oklahoma
Flooding in Oklahoma, so far has been limited to central Oklahoma, said Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for the state Department of Emergency Management.
"If you are somewhere dry, please just stay there," she said. "There is a possibility that could get stranded. Then first responders have to come and get you and they put their lives at risk."
Ooten also urged parents to remind children to stay out of flood waters.
"Flood waters is not the place you want to be. This is not the time to get out your raft and play in it. It's dirty and it's dangerous."
The Department of Emergency Management has not received any request for state assistance at this time, Ooten said. That could change as city and county officials begin to asses damage.
"They are still in response mode," she said. "We will continue to work long past the response to recovery with so many homes under water."
So far this year, Oklahoma has had two weather-related federal disaster declarations, Ooten said.
A federal disaster declaration was issued for the ice storm in late January and then in May for tornadoes. In 2007, nine federal disasters declarations were issued for weather related damage, Ooten said.
State Capitol damage
Nearly every building in the state Capitol complex has some sort of water related damage, said Randy Ross, deputy director of the Department of Central Services.
The office building that houses the state Agriculture Department closed this morning after electrical boxes at the building were under water, Ross said.
Water also leaked through the roof in Lincoln Plaza, which houses several agencies including the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. Ross said officials are still assessing the damage and trying to determine the cost. The Department of Central Services is responsible for 14 buildings, Ross said.
"Virtually every building the complex has issues at this point," Ross said. "Some of the buildings aren't the shape where we can start to send our guys in."
Ross said employees were using sump pumps and purchased new ones this morning to help get water out of buildings.
State agencies have also been told to close if working conditions had become dangerous to employees, Ross said.
Elsewhere in Oklahoma
Another line of thunderstorms fired up this afternoon along the I-44 corridor in southwestern Oklahoma, dumping as much as two inches of rainfall an hour in some areas.
Grady, Stephens, Caddo, Comanche and Kiowa counties in south central Oklahoma are under flash flood warnings until about 9 p.m.
Grady County Emergency Management Director Dale Thompson said there had been periods of heavy rainfall in Chickasha and the southern parts of the county throughout the afternoon but there not been any flooding problems as of about 2:45 p.m.
"We are continuing to keep an eye on it," Thompson said. "Right now, we've just had some steady rain."