More Rain Forecast For Oklahoma

Saturday, June 30th 2007, 8:19 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahomans got a brief respite early Saturday from heavy rains that have pounded the state for more than two weeks, but roads and highways remained shut down across the state after rain-swollen creeks and rivers flooded their banks.

Heavy equipment operators worked Saturday west of Ada to pick up five freight cars and a locomotive that derailed Friday afternoon after the train ran into water on the track, said Joe Faust, a spokesman for Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway. There were no injuries, and no threat to nearby residents, Faust said.

``The lead locomotive was able to get through, but the second locomotive derailed, along with five cars,'' Faust said.

One railcar lost its entire load of coal and another lost about half its load.

``The other cars, although they overturned, the freight was not compromised,'' Faust said.

In Lawton, residents were forced from more than 200 homes on the city's northeast side on Friday after East Cache Creek sent floodwaters into two housing additions.

A mandatory evacuation was issued about 11:30 p.m. Friday for the Garden Village and Turtle Creek housing additions, leading to a scene that resident Tonya Criger described as ``mass chaos,'' despite the best efforts of emergency officials.

``People were just confused,'' Criger said Saturday. ``They weren't sure if they wanted to leave or wanted to stay. When they saw how high the water was, the reality of everything set in for them.''

Criger said there is only one road that leads in and out of the two housing additions.

``It all came so fast,'' she said. ``It's all been an experience. Hopefully we won't have to do it again soon.''

Residents were allowed back into the additions on Saturday, after some spent the previous night at a Red Cross shelter in Lawton. More are expected to arrive at the shelter Saturday evening, said Anne Thompson, emergency services director for the area Red Cross.

Other shelters were opened in nearby Cache and in the southern Oklahoma towns of Walters and Waurika, Thompson said.

Portions of Interstate 44 in the Lawton area were shut down for more than 10 hours because of heavy flooding, but were reopened early Saturday morning, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported.

Across the state, roads and highways remained closed because of damage to roads and bridges from raging floodwater. Authorities closed the Cherokee Bridge over the Caney River in downtown Bartlesville on Saturday because of high water on State Highway 123 between Bartlesville and Dewey in Washington County.

In Oklahoma City, light rain fell early Saturday, marking the 18th straight day of rain, four days longer than the previous record set in 1937.

``They say save your money for a rainy day, but I'm not going to make any money if it doesn't stop raining,'' said Matt Mattox, owner of Strong Foundations Concrete in Norman. ``As for getting much work done, all my jobs are pretty much on hold.

``You can't pour concrete on a saturated ground, and it doesn't help that it hasn't stopped raining.''

The upper-level, low-pressure system responsible for the rain pushed into southeastern Kansas on Saturday, but more flooding was anticipated as officials released water from reservoirs and lakes to maintain the integrity of dams and levies.

``The normally flooded areas close to rivers are already inundated,'' said Kevin Brown, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman. ``Some of the reservoirs are up to levels they haven't seen in over a decade. Towns that are near any river in the state, except for western Oklahoma, are seeing flooding problems.''

Meanwhile, more heavy rain was expected in Oklahoma late Sunday and early Monday as the storm system moved back across the state, combining with a moist air mass lingering over Oklahoma.

``We're not out of the woods by any means,'' Brown said Saturday. ``This upper low will come right back over us late Sunday and early Monday. We could see widespread 1- to 3-inch rainfall amounts, with some locations getting 4 to 6 inches again as this upper-level low tracks back over us.''