July 12, 2010

H2Oh, so wet

Teen drowns as Oklahoma

rushing waters rise higher

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A teenager was swept to her death and at least two dozen motorists had to be rescued from their vehicles Thursday when heavy rain fueled by persistent tropical moisture pounded parts of Oklahoma.

The girl was playing with friends around a drainage ditch near Durant in Bryan County when water 3 to 4 feet deep carried her off, said Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the state Medical Examiner's office. Durant is about 145 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.

"Her friends got out and were running alongside trying to help but she didn't make," Ballard said late Thursday.

Ballard didn't have the girl's exact age or name.

The girl is the third child killed in flooding in less than a week in Oklahoma. Another teen died when he was swept into a south Oklahoma City creek, and an 8-year-old boy was killed in Pottawatomie County.

In Oklahoma City, rain falling at an estimated rate of about 4 inches an hour swamped southern sides of the city, stranding motorists in rush-hour traffic and pushing Lightning Creek over its banks.

Firefighters responded to at least 30 calls for help from motorists whose vehicles stalled or got stuck, but Fire Battalion Chief Brian Stanaland said there were no immediate reports of injuries.

Interstate 240 was closed and southbound traffic on I-44 near I-240 came to a stop as water gushed over the highway, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported. The interstate was reopened about two hours later.

Earlier Thursday, Tulsa motorists had to maneuver around high water when heavy rain hit that city.

An Oklahoma Mesonet site recorded 2.58 inches of rain in south Oklahoma City, but the National Weather Service estimated that 4 inches an hour may have fallen during that time.

The weather service issued numerous flash-flood warnings for parts of the state, and a flash flood watch remained in effect through early Friday.

Forecaster Daryl Williams said a large amount of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and several weak storm systems have kicked off continual rounds of thunderstorms in the past several days.

"It hasn't been particularly violent weather, but because the steering winds have been so light, the rains have been training over one area before moving out," Williams said.

Williams said more rain was possible on Friday, but the state could get a break over the weekend before storm chances increase again by Monday.

Grady County included

on flood emergency list

OKLAHOMA CITY  — State officials Friday declared a state of emergency for Grady County and 62 other Oklahoma counties following severe storms and flooding across the state.

At the request of Gov. Brad Henry, Lt. Gov. Jari Askins approved the paperwork declaring the emergency. The governor is attending the annual meeting of the National Governors Association and a meeting of the Council of Governors in Boston.

“We urge everyone to use caution as storms continue across our state,” Lt. Gov. Askins said. “I want to extend my thanks to the emergency crews and the news media for keeping the public safe and informed during this life-threatening crisis. Once again, our heroic responders have demonstrated the ‘Oklahoma Standard.’”

Since Tuesday, the state has experienced multiple storms that have flooded streets and homes and contributed to at least two drowning deaths.  The emergency declaration covers a number of different weather events that began July 6. Counties included in the declaration are: Adair, Atoka, Beckham, Bryan, Caddo, Canadian, Carter, Cherokee, Choctaw, Cleveland, Coal, Comanche, Cotton, Craig, Creek, Custer, Delaware, Garvin, Grady, Greer, Harmon, Haskell, Hughes, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnston, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Latimer, LeFlore, Lincoln, Logan, Love, Marshall, Mayes, McClain, McCurtain, McIntosh, Murray, Muskogee, Noble, Nowata, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Okmulgee, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Payne, Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Pushmataha, Roger Mills, Rogers, Seminole, Sequoyah, Stephens, Tillman, Tulsa, Wagoner, Washington and Washita

The declaration provides a formal mechanism for local governments to seek reimbursement for recovery costs through the state’s disaster public assistance program should conditions warrant. The executive order is also the first step toward seeking federal aid should it be necessary.

Additional counties may be added to the executive order as necessary.

For more information contact: Michelann Ooten, Oklahoma Emergency Management, 405-205-1879