Flooding Cleanup Could Hamper Memorial Day Plans At Lake Tenkiller

Monday, May 9th 2011, 4:42 pm
By: News On 6

Craig Day, News On 6

LAKE TENKILLER, Oklahoma -- River watchers say it looks like the Mississippi is starting to level out around Memphis, Tennessee and could crest Monday night, just shy of a record.

Parts of low-lying neighborhoods in the city are under water and more than 1,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. Forecasters say the city could get be in for rain and possible flash flooding.

The Corps of Engineers says releasing any more water from Lake Tenkiller would cause further problems along the Mississippi River.

The dam is already releasing at channel capacity. Although not as bad as flooding from the Mississippi, flooding along the Illinois River in Oklahoma left behind cleanup and concerns at Lake Tenkiller as we get closer to the Memorial Day weekend.

4/29/2011 Related Story: Army Corps Ups Water Release From Lake Tenkiller To 14,200 Cubic Feet Per Second

At Lake Tenkiller, the water is still 31 feet above normal. The timing couldn't be worse: three weeks before Memorial Day and a lot is still underwater.

"We got our picnic table, we got our utility table, we got the ground cookers which you can't even see," Debi Christie, with the Army Corps of Engineers, said.

When the Illinois River flooded, much of that water ended up here leaving an incredible mess.

5/9/2011 Related Story: Canoes, Rafts Return To Illinois River After Flood

"It kind of hit us fast and hard," Christie said. "Probably since the last flood, all of this stuff has accumulated upstream and the water just picked it up and brought it down."

The debris and high water prompted the Corps of Engineers to cancel Memorial weekend reservations and close Chicken Creek and the five other Corps recreation areas on the lake.

"Not just limbs, but trees," Christie said.

Heavy equipment will be used for cleanup and thankfully summer employees start this week.

Cleaning up all the debris is just the beginning. In fact, the Corps of Engineers says there could be many more problems along Lake Tenkiller that they don't know about and won't know about until the water recedes.

There is likely erosion damage, and many of the electric boxes need to be repaired.

"As the water goes down, we're going to have to totally strip them out and put new breakers in and clean them," said Christie.

The Corps will work to reopen as many of those parks as possible on time for Memorial Day weekend. If they reopen, campsites will be offered on a first come, first served basis.

"Big job. Big job," she said. "Just massive cleanup."

A massive recovery effort, they can already tell, will be no picnic.

The Corps says volunteers are also stepping forward offering to help with cleanup along Tenkiller to help the parks reopen by Memorial Day.

Those volunteer efforts are being coordinated right now.