Flooding Takes Life Of Elderly Man

Thursday, July 12th 2007, 4:23 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ An elderly Lincoln County man drowned on a rain swollen roadway as a new round of thunderstorms dropped more rain on parts of the state already saturated by weeks of rainfall and raised concerns about more flooding, authorities said Thursday.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said Lincoln County officials found the body of 80-year-old Wilford Robinson of Davenport on Wednesday. Officials said Robinson drowned after his vehicle stalled on a paved county road that was deluged by floodwaters.

Davenport Police Chief Bill Sides said a farmer found the victim's pickup truck near the flooded roadway about 1.5 miles east of Davenport. ``It washed him off the road,'' Sides said.

Robinson's body was found about 40 or 50 feet away from the vehicle, he said.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Robinson's death is the first attributable to flooding due to torrential rainfall over the past month. On June 18, three people were hurt when their pickup truck washed down a creek in Pontotoc County.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for much of eastern Oklahoma, including Tulsa, through Friday morning and a flood warning for the Deep Fork River near Beggs until Monday. The Deep Fork River stood at 20.3 feet Thursday afternoon, more than two feet above its 18-foot flood stage.

``Obviously flooding is going to be a big concern,'' said Ty Judd, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman. Minor flooding occurs when the Deep Fork River rises above 20 feet, inundating agricultural land and possibly washing over county roads south of Beggs, forecasters said.

Judd said other rivers and streams swollen by weeks of heavy rainfall may also spill from their banks after another round of thunderstorms that is predicted Friday. Many parts of the state received up to 2 inches of rainfall on Thursday, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

``It's possible that other rivers could also go into flood. They're not going to go down,'' Judd said. ``Hopefully we can get the rain out of here through the weekend.''

A little more than halfway through the year, Oklahoma has already exceeded its average annual rainfall, Judd said. Through Thursday, a total of 36.05 inches of rain has fallen in the state in 2007. The average for the year is about 35 inches.

This year's January-through-July period is already the wettest on record _ and there are about three weeks left in the month.

President Bush approved a disaster declaration for Ottawa and Washington counties on Saturday, qualifying flood victims for federal assistance. On Wednesday, Gov. Brad Henry asked the government to expand the declaration to include Comanche, Nowata and Pottawatomie counties.

As of Thursday, 1,058 applications for individual assistance had been received by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. On Friday, FEMA will open disaster recovery centers in Bartlesville and Miami in northeastern Oklahoma, which were hit hard by flooding last week.

The state has worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to secure more than 9,000 sandbags to help Oklahoma communities stop floodwaters from inundating homes and businesses.

In addition, the Miami City Council has approved an ordinance change that will allow displaced residents to be housed in temporary trailers for up to six months. FEMA is preparing to send several hundred trailers that residents can use for temporary housing on their properties while they repair flood-damaged homes.

In southern Oklahoma, the Corps continued to monitor Lake Texoma on the border between Oklahoma and Texas. The lake's depth stood at 640.7 feet on Thursday afternoon and was spilling over a concrete spillway with a lake depth of 640 feet.

A total of 30,000 cubic feet per second of water was being released from the spillway and by pumps at the lake into the nearby Red River to help steady the lake's level, said Ross Adkins, spokesman for the Corps' Tulsa district.

The Corps has said there is no danger to an earthen dam near the spillway that stands 30 feet higher at a lake level of 670 feet. The spillway has been used three times since construction was completed in 1944.

Adkins said the agency also is monitoring conditions in other lakes and streams to determine if additional rainfall will force them over their banks.

``We have to wait and actually see where the rain fell,'' he said. ``Usually there's enough warning that we have time to do some modeling and figure out what to do.''