KINGFISHER, Okla. (AP) _ Gov. Brad Henry declared a state of emergency Monday in 24 counties damaged a day earlier when the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin brought high winds and heavy rain to the state, flooding hundreds of homes and businesses and killing six people.
Henry's declaration was the first step toward seeking federal assistance. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management was making preliminary damage assessments.
An estimated 150 homes and businesses were damaged in and around Kingfisher, the first stop on the governor's tour of flooded areas Monday.
In Caddo County, another 150 homes were damaged or destroyed, officials said.
In Blaine County, mobile homes were blown apart, an airport hangar was damaged and a light airplane was turned into a heap of twisted metal. A nursing home and a grocery market were badly damaged and at least one home was destroyed, said Janell Wood, the county's emergency management director.
Flood waters also washed out a bridge on State Highway 33 in the eastern part of Blaine County.
At the peak of the storm early Sunday, about 25,000 customers of Oklahoma Gas and Electric, mostly in the Oklahoma City area, were without power, the utility reported. More than 1,325 remained without power Monday afternoon.
The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army set up shelters for people forced to leave their homes, said Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
Roads and several schools in the Oklahoma City area were closed Monday because of the flooding while some schools that were to be open did not send school buses on their routes.
Residents and businessmen were cleaning up.
In downtown Kingfisher, Brian Walter, owner of Walter Building Center, joined about 40 people in scrubbing mud and sludge the flood waters left in the store. He told the governor that the area has flooded three times in the last 12 years and that water retention structures for Kingfisher Creek are badly needed.
``You can't just sit here and keep taking this time after time,'' he said.
Dozens of water rescues took place.
``The response of Oklahomans to this disaster has, as usual, been exemplary,'' Henry said. ``First responders on the state and local level acted quickly, heroically and decisively to save lives and ease the pain of those affected by these storms.''
LeRoy Krittenbrink, 72, and his wife Bernice, 66, were pulled from flood waters north of Kingfisher by an Oklahoma Highway Patrol helicopter. They rode the skid of the helicopter to safety after their pickup truck was pushed off a highway by rapidly rising waters.
They said they were driving south on U.S. Highway 81 when they saw water on the road and decided to turn around rather than cross the water. While heading north, their truck was hit by water from a flooded creek.
Flood waters carried their truck for 90 minutes before they were rescued.
``When you're floating, you're hoping somebody is going to come help,'' Leroy Krittenbrink told The Associated Press. ``When you're in there that long, you lose your sense of equilibrium.''
Bernice Krittenbrink said there was no hesitation to grab the helicopter when it arrived, even though ``I didn't have the strength to do that.''
She said she and her husband ``were just sore and all'' but otherwise OK.
These types of weather systems usually weaken after coming ashore in Texas and moving north into Oklahoma, but this storm surprised forecasters early Sunday, producing winds of more than 80 mph and dumping 9 inches of rain in some places.
Henry said while some said it was the ``remnants'' of Erin that passed through the state, ``to me it looked more like a tropical storm directly over Oklahoma.''
Ooten said a 67-year-old Seminole woman whose vehicle was swept off a road by rising water was the sixth person to drown in the flooding.
Three other women died south of Carnegie when floodwaters swept their van off a highway.
Their bodies were recovered still inside the van, which was in a large pond about a quarter of a mile west of State Highway 58, OHP Trooper Kera Philippi said.
``There was rushing water on the roadway, about three feet deep, but on the surface it was calm,'' Philippi said. ``There were two eyewitnesses that saw the vehicle get swept away.''
A rural Fort Cobb woman drowned in her cellar after floodwaters inundated her home, Caddo County Emergency Management Director Larry McDuffey said.
``Evidently, she went to her cellar and the water overcame her and she couldn't get out,'' McDuffey said.
Also, a man drowned about 14 miles west of Kingfisher after floodwaters knocked his vehicle from State Highway 33, Kingfisher County Sheriff Dennis Banther said.
About 100 Kingfisher residents were evacuated from their homes after the nearby Cimarron River flooded.
``Out of its banks doesn't even cover it well enough,'' Williams said.
The counties included in the state of emergency are: Blaine, Caddo, Canadian, Cleveland, Comanche, Cotton, Custer, Dewey, Grady, Jefferson, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Lincoln, Logan, McClain, Muskogee, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Okmulgee, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Seminole, Stephens, and Washita. Click here
to watch an interview with Leroy and Bernice Krittenbrink.
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