Latest Round Of Storms Brings More Flooding To Oklahoma

Tuesday, July 10th 2007, 3:01 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A line of strong thunderstorms that passed through Oklahoma late Monday and early Tuesday brought more flooding to an already soaked state, causing some damage and prompting officials to close several highways.

Forecasters warned the potential for storms exists through the rest of the week in a state still trying to recover from widespread flooding that occurred over the last two weeks. Storms began firing up in southeastern Oklahoma late Tuesday afternoon, with one producing 67 mph winds in Bryan County near Calera.

In a rural part of Norman in far eastern Cleveland County, water in privately owned Reynolds Lake has risen high enough to begin eroding an earthen berm, releasing water into low-lying, heavily wooded areas, said Dave Grizzle, the city's emergency management coordinator. No homes were in danger of flooding but some might have access to outside roads cut off.

At least one family and numerous animals in the McClain County town of Newcastle, southwest of Oklahoma City, had to be evacuated Tuesday morning because of high waters caused by about 4 inches of overnight rain. A state of emergency was declared in the town, deputy emergency manager Jon Tankersley said.

``We've got a lot of bridge damage and street damage,'' Tankersley said.

Further south in McClain County, State Highway 24 _ the main road in and out of Washington, Okla. _ was closed because waters from flooded Walnut Creek had covered the road. Four families were evacuated from their homes in and around Washington, emergency officials said.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety reported road closures due to flooding in numerous other counties, including Coal, Cherokee, Nowata, Atoka, Choctaw, Pittsburg, Pottawatomie, Okfuskee and Ottawa.

The elevation of Lake Texoma in southern Oklahoma reached 640.38 feet by 3 p.m. Tuesday, higher than the 640-foot-high concrete spillway that allows excess water to drain from the lake, but no major flooding was expected as a result.

Under normal conditions, Reynolds Lake in Norman covers about 38 acres with a maximum depth of about 25 to 30 feet, Grizzle said. He said water topped the 20-foot-high earthen berm surrounding the lake early Tuesday after the heavy overnight rain. The rushing water has created a hole in the middle one-third of the berm, funneling the water across nearby land.

``It is being channeled rather effectively,'' he said.

He said it's difficult to tell if the rest of the berm will give way. If that happened, Grizzle said the water likely would cover State Highway 9, about a mile south of the lake, but that the situation ``would be over and done with in a few hours.''

Elsewhere in Norman, winds that reached 68 mph caused significant damage to Reaves Park, located just south of the University of Oklahoma campus. Grizzle said at least two trees in the park were uprooted, while others were struck by lightning and tree branches littered the ground.

Norman-based National Weather Service meteorologist Ty Judd said several state waterways _ including the Little River near Tecumseh, the North Canadian River near Harrah, the Clear Boggy Creek near Caney, the Muddy Boggy Creek near Farris and the Blue River in southeastern Oklahoma _ either were already above or were expected to rise above flood stage on Tuesday.

Over the past 24 hours ending at 1:30 p.m., Broken Bow in McCurtain County received the most rain in the state with 5.69 inches, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet. Washington received 5.23 inches, with almost 3 inches coming in a one-hour stretch early Tuesday. Hugo received 4.66 inches and Norman received 4.01 inches.

Oklahoma City received 2.31 inches in a 24-hour period ending at 7 a.m., the weather service reported.

More than 13,000 electric customers statewide suffered power outages from the storm, although nearly all had had service restored by Tuesday afternoon.

There were reports of a possible tornado or straight-line winds on Monday that blew the roof off a Eufaula office building as a severe storm moved through McIntosh County. In Muskogee County, the roof of a church was blown off and several houses, trees and an outbuilding were damaged about two miles east of Warner.

Warner Police Chief Terry Thompson said he saw a tornado touch down near U.S. Highway 64 about 4:20 p.m. Monday and damage three structures.