Flood waters recede, residents left with cleanup

Monday, May 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAPULPA, Okla. (AP) -- The water came fast and was quick to recede. But the cleanup of hundreds of northeast Oklahoma homes soaked by weekend floods is going to take time, residents say.

Ray and Joan Andis spent Sunday morning ripping up soggy carpet in their Sapulpa home. In 16 years, they had seen nothing like the waters that surged up and out of nearby Rock Creek in a matter of minutes Saturday.

Without flood insurance, the couple hoped to salvage some carpet by stretching it out on the driveway to dry.

"What took six or seven hours to destroy, it's going to take that many weeks to straighten out," Ray Andis said.

More than 400 homes were affected by flooding in Sapulpa, Kiefer, Glenpool, Skiatook, Tulsa, Sand Springs, Broken Arrow and Coweta, the state Department of Civil Emergency Management reported.

Albert Ashwood, head of the state agency, was in Sapulpa on Sunday to help assess residents' needs.

His office already had contacted federal authorities about the possibility of financial assistance for uninsured residents. A joint damage assessment team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program and state officials was expect to begin work today.

"Disasters are not declared on the amount of damage, but the amount of assistance needed," Ashwood said.

The stench of mildew greeted Linda Keeling and Darrel Crossno as they opened the door to their Sapulpa home on Monday.

A dirty ring on an outside wall showed where water at least chest-high had flowed. A TV set lay overturned on the floor. The couch bore a muddy line midway up the back.

Crossno's face was grim as he opened the door on his brand-new pickup truck outside. A film of pale mud coated everything from seats to speedometer. Crossno took it all in silence.

The water had just begun to rise when the couple left to get coffee at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. When they returned an hour later, they couldn't get to their house. A dog chained to a porch next door drowned, they said.

The truck, at least, was insured. Everything else would have to be replaced on their own.

"Looks like we start from scratch," Keeling said, her voice heavy with emotion.

Many Sapulpa residents were back in their muddy homes by Saturday afternoon. Only two people stayed overnight at an American Red Cross shelter at a nearby church, officials there said.

Flooding continued Sunday in low-lying areas along Polecat Creek. Fast-flowing waters made a tree-filled basin outside of Sapulpa look like a miniature lake, but the creek was expected to fall below flood stage today.

Highway 20 in a flood-prone area near Skiatook was closed Sunday morning, but local authorities expected no flooding of homes. Flooding of low-lying land also was expected along Bird Creek extending from north Tulsa to Catoosa, the National Weather Service reported.

The flooding began as slow-moving storms late Friday and early Saturday dumped more than 8 inches of rain in some parts of Creek County.

In south Tulsa, a 53-year-old woman drowned Saturday after her car was caught in a flash flood.

Patty Dunn and fiance Steve Ellis took a firefighter's advice Saturday morning and left their Sapulpa home as the flood waters were rising. But Dunn said she waded back in to get her flood policy and called the insurance company.

"I said `I got my policy out. It's dry, and you're going to handle it,' " she said, as she sloshed through mud Sunday to dump several bloated telephone books.

In Sapulpa, where flood waters intruded into 200 homes and 12 businesses, creeks were back in their banks Sunday morning.

But the brimming tributaries and heavy gray skies gave Creek County Emergency Management Director B.J. Pope reason to worry.

"Until it can run and creeks can be emptied, we're still in danger," he said. "We couldn't stand another 2 inches of rain."