TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Heavy rainfall during the weekend in northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas contributed to major flooding of the Illinois River, forcing the closure of several roads in Cherokee County.
“There was a very large amount of rain in the Illinois River watershed over the weekend, which led to the flooding event,” said Justin Alberty, vice president of corporate communications for the Grand River Dam Authority. “I know the Mesonet showed 7.75 inches in Jay yesterday and other large amounts over into the Illinois watershed.”
The scenic river crested overnight at 24.11 feet at the Watts gauge site near the Arkansas state line, as major flooding inundated areas downstream throughout the day on Monday. The U.S. Geological Survey recorded crests at 5:46 a.m. of 21.96 feet at Chewey and 21.09 feet 5 p.m. at the Tahlequah gauge.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation closed Oklahoma 10 due to flooding. Transportation workers cleared debris from the highway after floodwaters began to recede later in the day.
The water overflowed the banks of the Illinois River and reached Oklahoma 10 outside Hanging Rock Camp. Campgrounds at Peyton’s Place flooded, and river levels nearly reached the road by All American Floats.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, reportedly instructed the GRDA to open flood gates along the Grand River system.
By 4 p.m. Monday, Oklahoma 10 remained closed between Hanging Rock and No Head Hollow, north of the intersection with U.S. 62 to through traffic. Signs also blocked drivers from crossing the new Combs Bridge due to the closure of county roads east of the bridge. Officials anticipated the road would remain closed throughout the day.
The National Weather Service in Tulsa reports that river levels experienced on Monday typically result with severe flooding of several cabins and parks and the isolation of many others. The agency notes circumstances with such conditions are “very dangerous” and constitute a “life-threatening situation.”
The Illinois River near Tahlequah remains under a flood warning, which is expected to be in effect until Tuesday afternoon, when NWS Tulsa expects the river to drop below its flood stage is 11 fee. State transportation officials urged motorists to refrain from driving around barricades and to not enter high water.
More information about river levels can be found at waterdata.usgs.gov.
Grant D. Crawford writes for the Tahlequah Daily Press.