Chickasha business owners sandbag town as waters rise

Monday, October 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Firefighters ferried bedridden and wheelchair-bound residents from their flood-threatened homes Monday during a temporary, voluntary evacuation of homes along a creek that rose sharply after heavy rains hit central Oklahoma.

Chickasha Fire Chief Mike Brice said firefighters helped about a dozen people leave their homes while another 100 to 200 were able to leave on their own for a few hours. Waters flowed into buildings and flooded streets about a foot deep before beginning to recede by mid-day.

In nearby Anadarko, fire officials used fire trucks and school buses to evacuate about 80 people from homes and an apartment complex Sunday night.

Capt. Dickie Tripp with the Anadarko Fire Department said to go "70 days without any rain and make it up in one night is just not right." He said he would have preferred to have the 9-plus inches of rain over about five days instead of in just a few hours. "That last night was pretty tough," he said.

Tripp also had to deal with flooding of an embroidery business he shares with a partner. They found 8 inches of water inside their building.

"I hadn't seen it flood like this since sometime during the '80s," said Jerry Thomas, vice president of Hopkins Plumbing in Chickasha.

Thomas and his father, Leroy, said water was about a foot deep outside their building and in some areas of northern Chickasha at the height of the flooding. "We have a basement. That's the only reason we're not under water," Jerry Thomas said.

Chickasha residents filled sandbags and stacked them outside business doors to keep the water out and worried about what another night of rain might bring. By late afternoon, Brice said Line Creek and the Washita River were both in their banks. "We're going to be in trouble if we get any significant rain," Brice said.

Becky McDonald, owner of Chickasha Office Supply, said water got about halfway into the building and into the basement. "We had to stop that. We have a very expensive elevator in the bottom of it,"

she said. Attorneys from the Ferguson and Heck law firm, which owns the building, were out helping, she said.

Albert Ashwood, director of the state Office of Emergency Management, said 63 businesses in Chickasha had water in them at some point. State crews were doing assessments on damage to roads and bridges and Ashwood said they didn't know the number that were damaged because waters were still over the roads in some areas.

Waters flooded Anadarko High School and an adjacent technology building as more than 9 inches of rain fell between 8 a.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday. Water also was reported in one of the city's fire stations. Schools also were closed in the Boone-Apache school district.

Anadarko Superintendent Tom Cantrell said about a fourth of the high school had some water in it with some parts up to ankle deep.

He said the water mainly came in under doors from a nearby field.

"All of our buildings have a little bit of rain damage," he said.

"Our biggest problem is lots of bridges are washed out," he said. The transportation director was out driving roads to figure out routes to pick up children for classes Tuesday. He said he had been given two pages of roads and bridges out in that area. county officials called him about 2:30 a.m. and asked him not to run buses because of roads that were flooded or washed out.

There were no reports of injuries from the storms.

The creek near Terri Alexander's property near Anadarko usually is ankle deep. But Monday it stretched 200 yards into her field.

She expected to have to use a two-man bass boat to get across the creek to try to find two missing cows. She said she would probably take some hay over to the cows. "They've got plenty of water to drink."

All the ponds and creeks have run together to give the impression of a large lake stretching toward Anadarko, she said.

"I've probably got a crater in my yard 5 feet wide and 4 feet deep, just grass and dirt gone," she said.

Alexander said one side of her quarter-mile long dirt and gravel driveway is gone. "It's down to sand rock."

"I live out in the country. We came a way there was flooding but not anything we couldn't get through," said Dana Morris, district treasurer for the Anadarko schools. "We knew that would be the best way to go."

She said ditches were full and lower lying fields were filled with water.

Justin Lane, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman, said 7.4 inches of rain fell in Apache. Other amounts included 6.6 inches at Cherokee, 5.6 at Chandler, 5.4 at Stroud, 5.2 at the forecast office, 4.3 inches at Frederick and 4.1 inches at Meeker.

Lane said the threat of flash flooding could reappear later Monday as storms redeveloped along and north of a weak cold front boundary in the state.

Some damage was reported with the small tornadoes, including a Montgomery Ward auto service center near Crossroads Mall in southeast Oklahoma City. The store already had closed for the night when the storm hit around 7 p.m.

A Valley Brook resident said she looked out her door and saw a funnel over the trees.

"I grabbed my husband and we went into my boy's room and we just stayed down," a tearful Brenda Brannum said as she stood outside her roofless home. "I guess this was just, I don't know, the Lord looking out for us."