Federal emergency officials begin touring flood-ravaged Oklahoma towns


Thursday, October 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


Federal emergency officials have begun touring the flood damage in several central Oklahoma towns, but much of the worry among residents has nothing to do with aftermath.

It has to do with problems that still remain.

In Chickasha, city workers have been forced to pump water from the nearby Washita River after a water line break put the city's water flow at a minimum.

It's barely enough.

"The level of our (water) towers are so low, we're one negative situation away from being out of water," City Manager Larry Shelton said. "Right now, we're holding on by the skin of our teeth. And we're extremely concerned about running out of water.

Period."

Meanwhile, eight 400-gallon National Guard water tanks have been put in place for residents in need of a bulk supply of water.

Classes in the Chickasha School District are to reopen on Thursday.

Thursday and Friday classes have been canceled at the University of Sciences and Arts of Oklahoma.

Students there have been eating off paper plates to eliminate dish washing.

Steve Chapman, Chickasha's emergency management director, is trying to get a disaster declaration for the city.

Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency toured Chickasha's downtown district Wednesday, where floods caused an estimated $1 million in damage.

"That number seems to be going up every day," Chapman said.

The federal officials were to tour Anadarko and Apache Thursday.

Chapman said a decision on both Caddo and Grady counties is expected shortly afterward.

"I hate to speculate," Chapman said. "But with the two counties together, I think we have a good chance."

In Anadarko, the last family from a flooded residential development south of town was just recently evacuated. While residents there were being told to boil their drinking water, the family went to a Red Cross shelter at the Anadarko Christian Center where 50 beds were set up Wednesday.

Rain continued to come down lightly Wednesday.

"About the time you think you are gaining ground, you lose more," said Caddo County emergency management director Lester Rudisill.

Rudisill said about 200 people were evacuated from Anadarko, with about 20 homes destroyed and about 60 damaged.

In Apache, city leaders asked state officials for assistance in the aftermath of Monday's floods, which left 50 to 60 homes damaged and dozens of families homeless.

Debris from the floods was expected to be cleared Thursday, but then comes the rebuilding process.

By early Thursday, rainstorms which had residents worried about further flooding, passed relatively quietly.

A flash flood watch which covered several central Oklahoma counties was canceled Wednesday evening as a system which was producing only moderate rainshowers moved east of Interstate 35.

National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Miller said the system was bringing steady rainfall to parts of southcentral Oklahoma, but was weakening throughout the night.

Another system, which officials thought might bring severe weather to northern Oklahoma late Wednesday moved northeast into Kansas, Miller said.

But the forecast calls for storms to be a constant worry throughout the week, and many areas of the state cannot handle much more.

The airport near Woodward in northwestern Oklahoma recorded about 7 inches of rain from Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

By Wednesday afternoon, East Cache Creek in Cotton County was at 27.9 feet. The flood stage is 21 feet, said Steve Kruckenberg, a service hydrologist with the National Weather Service.

The Deep Red Creek near Randlett is expected to remain at about 23 feet, about 3 feet above flood stage, through Friday afternoon, Kruckenberg said.

The Cimarron River near Waynoka was above flood stages and more rain could cause floods along the river near Okeene and Dover, officials said.