Turn around don't drown: Southern Oklahoma experiences major flash flooding

Drew Butler
A car is stranded in flood waters behind a shopping center on South Commerce Street on Tuesday.

Streets across Southern Oklahoma experienced major flooding on Tuesday after an early morning storm inundated the area with heavy rainfall. According to Amber Wilson, director of emergency management, the storm’s peak brought about six inches of rain within a three-hour timespan.

“Our drainage system just cannot keep up with that amount of rain, and right now we’re out performing water rescues for vehicles trapped by flooding,” Wilson said Tuesday morning. “We really need people to stay off the roads right now unless they absolutely have to get out. Our first responders are out there, and we don’t want to cause them any more problems than they already have.”

The flooding also extended outside of the city limits and into surrounding counties. Carter County Emergency Management Director Paul Tucker said the intersection of Bussell Ridge and Hedges Road remained closed for most of the day and could potentially stay closed if the rain continues.

Love County Emergency Management Director Ashleigh Gillham said three roads in the county were temporarily closed, another came close to closing, and one washed out entirely.

“As of right now Refuge Road is passable, but we may have to close it completely if the rain continues and Hickory Creek continues to rise,” Gillham said Tuesday afternoon. “We had a road wash out on Willow Flats road, so that’s going to be closed until further notice.”

Over the course of the day, the rain slowed down and drainage systems were able to catch up, allowing most streets to return to normal. However all three emergency management directors stressed that continued rainfall — and heavy downpours in particular — could cause streets to flood once again.

According to Jennifer Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman, the rain is expected to continue throughout the day on Wednesday and possibly into Thursday.

“We’ll have some pretty widespread precipitation in the area all day Wednesday,” Thompson said. “It could bring as much as another inch with some areas getting even larger totals. Thursday there’s about a 30% to 40% chance of rain in the morning, but that will pretty much clear out by the afternoon.

Wilson urged the public to keep an eye on the weather and be especially cautious if heavy rains continue today.

“That could cause another situation like this morning if it comes in really quickly,” she said Tuesday. “If that happens we’re going to be in trouble because everything will already be completely saturated after all of the rain from today.”