County ravaged by floodwaters

Robert Smith

Osage County’s emergency management director was waiting last Friday for truckloads of donated drinking water and cleaning supplies to arrive, and hoping that being able to distribute those materials would also help with data collection about storm impacts.

Osage County was nearly crippled last week by rain and flooding as tornado-laced thunderstorms repeatedly swept across northeast Oklahoma.

Emergency Management director Jerry Roberts said the manager of the Walmart store in Skiatook wanted to help and, as a result, the company was making available water, bleach, and cleaning implements such as mops, buckets, scrubbers and brooms.

Roberts said he hoped the distribution of cleaning supplies to residents of Skiatook and other communities affected by flooding last week, particularly Hominy and Avant, would help both to address impending mold problems and to collect data about damaged homes and public buildings. Roberts said Friday morning that official house counts and other numbers were still incomplete.

By Monday, the Walmart supplies on which Roberts had been waiting had come in and donations were flowing from other directions, as well. He noted that personnel and supplies were arriving from out of state. Roberts said Monday morning that some 50 pallets of drinking water, consisting of 60 cases each, and about 2,000 gallons of bleach were on-hand for distribution.

Red Cross personnel from Buffalo, New York, had arrived in the affected area and groups of Methodist and Mormon volunteers were doing damage surveys in the Avant area and planning to share information with Baptist volunteers who would likely be arriving in the same area Tuesday, May 28, Roberts said.

Another example Roberts gave of out-of-state interest in providing aid for flooded Oklahoma residents was that calls had come in from Louisiana, from people who had received aid from Oklahomans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They wanted to return the favor, he said. Roberts said he had not yet asked for help from Louisiana, knowing that a broad area across Oklahoma will need assistance before this disaster response is over.

Roberts estimated last Friday that Avant might have some 40-50 flood-damaged houses. That community also had experienced signficant flooding at its fire station and city hall, Roberts said.

In the wider Skiatook area, including locations outside city limits, perhaps 150 people had been evacuated, Roberts said. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol provided several boats. There had been perhaps four and a half feet of water accumulated in the east end of Skiatook, which is mostly in Tulsa County, Roberts said. He reiterated that house counts were not good yet.

Dan Yancey, Skiatook city manager, said Friday that one of the biggest problems the community faced was the closing of Highway 20 for most of the week. State Highway 20 between Skiatook and U.S. 75 reopened early Friday morning.

Yancey said probably easily less than 20 houses flooded within city limits. Measures that Skiatook has implemented in recent years to deal with blighted property have helped, he said. There were additionaol problems outside city limits, he said.

Perhaps five businesses in the east end of Skiatook were affected, Yancey said. He mentioned a restaurant, a convenience store, a barber shop, a Dollar General store and a plant nursery.

“This was a pretty historic event,” Yancey said, mentioning that an engineer said it was essentially a 50-year flood event. “I think we’re pretty blessed.”

Yancey said he hopes to be able to talk with state and federal officials about how the flood vulnerability of Higway 20, particularly between Skiatook and U.S. 75, negatively affects communities to the north of Skiatook.

“That’s going to be our selling point,” he said, referring to what he hopes will be an attempt to obtain financing for an improvement project.