Flood Rescues Proving Costly

Friday, April 11th 2008, 6:12 pm
By: News On 6

New numbers show just how costly it is to save folks who ignore warnings and drive into flooded streets.  Each rescue costs $1,500.  There have been 10 water rescues this week alone, making this the costliest April on record. The News On 6's Jeffrey Smith reports Broken Arrow has launched four rescues in the last 24 hours.

Most of the $1,500 is eaten up by the equipment used to rescue stranded drivers during flood season.  Two of Thursday's rescues involved bringing out inflatable watercraft, all because of how swift the water was moving.

The signs are there. The barricades are there. But time after time, drivers ignore them.

"People want to get to work, they have things do, they have to get the kids to school, it's only natural to try and get through," said Keith Sterling with the City of Broken Arrow.

And when they get stuck, firefighters have to come to the rescue.

"The five minutes that you're going to lose in seeking a safe route around the flooded area is certainly not worth the risk of your life, of your vehicle," said Tulsa Fire Captain Larry Bowles.

Tulsa did three water rescues this week.  Broken Arrow did three on Tuesday and four on Thursday. Add that up and you have 10 car rescues in metro Tulsa in the last 48 hours.

"In fact, while we were rescuing some occupants, some trapped occupants of vehicles in high water, other vehicles were driving into high water right behind us," said Deputy Fire Chief James Suddath.

Rescues eat up a lot of manpower

"It'll take four to six people, and three to four different pieces of equipment to actually make a rescue," said Suddath.

And that costs money, a lot of it. This weeks efforts cost taxpayers $15,000.

"When you dedicate that much resource to let's say one occupant caught in a car, we're letting the district down," said Suddath.

Rescuers say each stranded car is a burden.  A burden to the trapped drivers, a burden to the rescuers and a burden to taxpayers.

Three out of the four people who were rescued on Thursday were issued tickets for driving through the signs that told them not to do it.

Those fines go anywhere from $104 to $144 and the police department says they'll be trying to make those citations even more costly in the future.

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