Cherokee County Residents Brace For Near-Record Level Flooding

Sunday, April 30th 2017, 9:35 pm
By: News On 6

The threat isn't over for people living along the Illinois river. In Tahlequah, the river hasn't crested just yet but emergency managers say you should still stay alert. 

The intersection of Highways 62 and 10 in Tahlequah had water creeping closer to the barricades. 

Emergency managers said the flooding is intense, but just barely falls short of beating the 2015 flood record.

Water is a threat that moves slow or fast, and either way it's moving, the best option is to get out of the way.

"I'm going to leave I'm not gonna stay here for this one I didn't stay for the last one," said homeowner Robert Walker. 

Walker said he's not taking any chances. If predictions hold true, his yard, just like in December 2015, will be turned into a lake.

"I'm as prepared as I can be obviously," he said. "I can't do anything. But what you can do it take into consideration some history and you proceed with taking care of yourself."

Initial predictions estimated the river would beat the record of 30 feet set in 2015. But, now it estimated to crest about a foot lower than that. That estimation is still dangerously high.

"It's going to be a disaster and all we can do is save what we can and the aftermath put everything back together and continue one," Falcon Floats owner Chuck Eastham said. 

With another potentially devastating flood rising, people in Tahlequah have learned to not underestimate mother nature. Some have already evacuated.

"A lot of people are heeding the warning," said Scott Pettus with Cherokee County Emergency Management. "They saw the devastation back in December of 2015. We have not had near the number of water rescues in the area." 

Emergency managers have learned too.

"We've learned to stage equipment a bit differently so we can get to people on both sides of the Illinois river," Pettus said. 

Emergency managers say once the river crest it could take about 5 days for the water levels to drop below flooding. With floating season so close, business owners are staying optimistic.