Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission Issues Flood Warning For Illinois River

Tuesday, March 8th 2016, 3:00 pm
By: Tess Maune

Rain is expected to push the Illinois River to flood stage, and residents there are still trying to get back to normal after a record-breaking flood in December.

The Scenic Rivers Commission said the Illinois River is expected to rise 16 to 17 feet by Wednesday.

Life on the Illinois River gives some of the best views in Oklahoma.

“We have the only clear water free-flowing stream in the state of Oklahoma, literally in my backyard. It's something we take a lot of pride in,” said resident Howard Tate.

But being so close, being at the Mercy of Mother Nature also can leave some stomach-churning memories.

“You could hear sounds like gunshots going off,” Tate said. “It was the trees and branches breaking from the sheer force of the water.

His family has been near the banks of the Illinois River for it’s two record-setting floods - the first in 2011, then, five years later, last December, the levels rose two feet higher than that 2011 record.

“The water was rising about a foot an hour. And it's just the most helpless feeling to stand there and know it's coming and there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop it,” Tate said.

Scenic Rivers Commission Director Ed Fite said the flooding projected this week is moderate compared to what residents went through a few months ago. Even so, he's urging folks who use the river for recreation to hold off a few weeks until the water goes back down and slows down.

“It's gonna be flows that are substantial enough that they'll redistribute a lot of the gravel that are in these streams. So we could see some new trees in the river - we could see some trees that are already in the river, redistributes, relocated,” Fite said.

And for those who live along the water, they're watching and hoping record-breaking rain stays away.

Tate said, “You can't affect the river, all you can do is respect the river.”

Even though the flooding won't be as bad as December’s record flooding, it's still a good idea to have a plan in place and know what you need to move and move it before it's too late.