Flood relief continues in county

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

Osage County officials and private relief volunteers continued working, as this week began, to address the many facets of the flood disaster that began May 20.

Emergency Management Director Jerry Roberts said county commissioners responded to a problem in Fairfax by agreeing Monday to have a group of engineers put a steel wall between the old Big Hill Store building and a neighboring clinic. The idea is to stabilize the situation and get the clinic back open, Roberts said. Once that is accomplished, the county will be in a better position to address the issue of getting the Big Hill Store building taken down, he said.

Roberts said he was in McCord during the weekend, where some houses were in danger of falling into streams. He particularly mentioned a home that might easily be valued at perhaps $175,000 or $200,000 that was just six feet away from a creek, thanks to flooding. It used to be about 50 feet away from the creek, he said. He also mentioned the Osage Nation was overseeing cleanup of an oil spill in that part of Osage County.

Roberts said Monday that he hoped Osage County would be added to a presidential disaster declaration for Oklahoma by about mid-week.

Elsewhere in the county, intensive response to flood damage continued as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army have been providing meals to citizens and relief workers in the town of Avant. A dump site had also been set up at Avant, a development about which the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality was aware, Roberts said. Blacktop around the Avant school was gone as a result of the flooding, he told county commissioners.

Ron Vann, chaplain of a group of Oklahoma Baptist volunteers based in Skiatook and working in Osage County, said Friday that teams were doing “mud-out” work in homes in Avant that had been flooded.

Vann said it is common for flood water to get into insulation and Sheetrock and flooring. He stressed the importance of getting ruined furniture out of dwellings, removing as much Sheetrock as needed, power washing floors and spraying with a product called Shockwave to address the potential for mold.

“If they have to take out the flooring, they will” Vann said. “Our idea is to get the homeowner back in as soon as possible.”

Vann said the Baptist relief workers apply their efforts to privately owned homes. They do not work on rental units, businesses or mobile homes. A lot of people do their own cleanup and the Baptist team was making Shockwave available to them for free, he said.

“We’re all volunteers. We don’t get paid because we feel like the Lord has blessed us,” Vann said. He is from the Tahlequah area. Other team members hail from elsewhere in Oklahoma.

“A lot of people don’t know that Southern Baptists, even in their own states, do this,” Vann said. “We even pay for our own background checks,” he said.

Vann said Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief would rotate teams in and out of flood-ravaged areas as needed. He also issued a general caution to residents of affected areas. Vann said the Baptist relief workers perform their tasks absolutely free of charge. If anyone shows up later in a yellow shirt — like the ones they wear — and requests payment, call the law on them, he said.