Roberts: County mostly recovered from 2019 flooding

Robert Smith

As 2020 begins, Osage County finds itself much more advanced in its recovery from disastrous flooding in the spring of 2019 than might have been expected, according to the county emergency management director.

“We thought it was going to take a year, just getting the county infrastructure back together,” Emergency Management Director Jerry Roberts said. Instead, the process is generally winding down after just 6-7 months, he said.

Roberts attributed the quickness of the countywide recovery to assistance from state and federal agencies. At the state level, Roberts named the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Quality, state Emergency Management officials and the governor’s office as major contributors to Osage County’s recovery.

Flooding, particularly from rains in late May, damaged homes in some Osage County communities and washed out roadways. Private disaster relief agencies joined government agencies in responding to the county’s distress. Mennonite Disaster Service representatives remain active in Avant, which was among the most hard hit communities.

Nona Roach, a community activist in Avant, said the Mennonites have been instrumental to the progress that has been made in Avant but a lot of rebuilding is left to be done.

At the national government level, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture made important contributions to the county’s recovery, Roberts said. He said the FEMA representative who has been helping Osage County the past two or three months has done an excellent job.

“He has gotten us farther along than any of the other people did,” Roberts said. He also said the condition of roads in the county is generally pretty good.

“All the roads, with the exception of two, are either under construction or completed,” he said. Two roads Roberts named that still need attention are Blackburn Road, in the southwest part of Osage County, and a residential road in the Avant area.

A section of Blackburn Road washed out and ODOT is expected to take responsibility for that repair, because Blackburn Road is a major collector road for traffic between Osage and Pawnee counties, Roberts said. The residential Avant road suffered a washout some 35 feet deep, 60 feet wide and 100 feet long. Efforts are being made to figure out where the money would come from to restore that road, he said.

Roach said she thought the funding to address the Avant road washout would probably come through FEMA. Another problem about which she commented is that residents who received FEMA checks weren’t told exactly what the money was meant to replace, so it was difficult for them to direct the money at the problems that federal representatives had identified.