Thunderstorms dropped about 10 inches of rain on parts of Oklahoma City early Monday, flooding neighborhoods, closing interstates, stranding motorists and leaving some residents clinging to trees and awaiting rescue.
The storms — which forecasters said followed each other like a series of train cars moving over the same area — also led authorities to declare a state of emergency in 59 of Oklahoma's 77 counties.
Officials reported more than 50 rescues of residents and stranded motorists in the Oklahoma City area. The state Health Department reported nearly 140 injuries, but none that required hospitalization. No deaths were reported.
Out-of-towner's rude welcome
Jarvis Ross, 31, of Chicago, was riding in a car driven by Jeremy King, 20, of Oklahoma City east on NW 36 about 6:30 a.m. when they hit high water under the Broadway Extension bridge.
"The water didn't look deep at first, but as we got closer the car submerged all the way under," Ross said. "The current just kind of took us away."
When the water was no longer above the doors, the two waded out to firmer ground.
"The quickest thing I could think about was getting out of the car."
Ross, of Chicago, said Oklahoma's recent weather events are a lot different than he is used to experiencing.
"I'm from Illinois and I had never seen a hailstorm or anything like this before," Ross said.
Seven people were rescued from flood waters near the intersection of Sooner and Hefner roads, where the Deep Fork River jumped its banks.
Cars were swamped near the normally busy intersection of Pennsylvania and Memorial. Motorists and workers in the area helped people stranded in their vehicles.
Water flooded a neighborhood near NW 164 and N Western. Oklahoma City firefighters used a rescue boat to get to a man trapped in a truck in that area, said fire Deputy Chief Marc Woodard.
State of emergency
At the request of Gov. Brad Henry, who is out of state, Lt. Gov. Jari Askins approved the paperwork declaring the emergency for 59 counties affected by heavy rain.
The executive order is the first step toward seeking federal aid should it be necessary.
So far this year, Oklahoma has had two weather-related federal disaster declarations, said Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman fro the state Department of Emergency Management.
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.
Rescue crews were busy throughout the Oklahoma City area on Monday.
Firefighters in the Deer Creek area of northwest Oklahoma County reported that near NW 192 and Western Avenue water pushed a sport utility vehicle against a bridge embankment. A man climbed out of the automobile, but was swept off the roof. Rescue workers found him clinging to a tree, said Assistant Chief Eric Harlow with the Deer Creek Fire Protection District.
In Edmond, three people trapped in a vehicle by rushing flood waters were rescued Monday morning near Santa Fe High School.
"We have had dozens and dozens of water rescues today," said Glynda Chu, Edmond police spokeswoman. "Most of them were from vehicles stranded in the high water. We had several entire families including the family dogs."
"Some of our officers have been here more than 25 years and this is the worst flooding incident they can remember."
Arcadia Lake was closed because the water keeps rising, threatening to run over the spillway.
Arcadia Lake is 8.3 feet above normal lake level, said W. Ross Adkins, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers spokesman for the Tulsa District.
"There is a lot of water coming into that lake," Adkins said.
For the first time since the lake was operational in 1986, Adkins said water could run over the spillway.
Edmond and Spring Creek parks are now closed. No new campers are being allowed in, Chu said. Campers at Scissortail and Central State Park have been moved to higher ground.