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Oklahoma storms cause dangerous flooding

On Tuesday, April 30th severe storms began in Oklahoma which brought tornadoes, intense winds, and flooding to the state. As a result, Oklahoma’s Governor, Kevin Stitt, declared a state of emergency which was amended twice to include all 77 counties. Under this declaration, agencies throughout the state gained permission to purchase items that could decrease the amount of time required to get resources to affected areas.

Assistance 

In Wagoner, Oklahoma flooding has damaged many homes (Source Stella Collins)
In Wagoner, Oklahoma flooding has damaged many homes (Source Stella Collins)

With continuous storms and increasing damage to property, Governor Stitt began to seek outside help. On May 14th he requested a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster declaration, which would help provide low-interest disaster loans to members of Bryan and Pittsburg counties and their bordering counties looking to fix or replace damaged property that was not covered by insurance. The SBA approved this assistance the following day. Of the nearly 200 damaged homes and businesses in Bryan and Pittsburg counties, 76 were found to be uninsured thus eligible for assistance from the SBA’s program. 

The following week on May 20th, the State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) increased communication with emergency managers throughout the state. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 6 sent an advance team to Oklahoma to assist in the delivery of federal resources. Five days later President Donald Trump declared 10 Oklahoma Counties as being in a state of emergency. Federal aid that was requested for these counties was approved in less than 24 hours. This declaration made federal resources, such as generators, water, cots, and blankets available to state and local governments in their attempt to combat the damage done by the storms and flooding. Additional federal and FEMA aid will be distributed by state authorities to community members impacted by the storms and floods. 

In addition to federal aid, the state of Oklahoma has also been providing financial and non-financial assistance. The Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Canadian County Health Department provided tetanus shots for people who were injured in the recent storms and tornadoes. Disaster Housing Grants worth up to $1,500 became available for community members whose homes were damaged and are no longer livable. Free testing for harmful bacteria in private wells that were submerged in flood water in any of the 77 counties of Oklahoma are being performed by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Flood waters are damaging property in Wagoner, Oklahoma (Source Cassie Collins)

Levee System Threat

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is still experiencing storms, there is a threat that the aging levee system could break due to the intense flooding. The threat of breakage will be at its height when the water levels begin to decrease. This is because the soil near the levees has had a lot of water on it resulting in great amounts of pressure and saturation. When the water levels decrease, the levee systems could erode into the water current. Because thousands of people reside behind these levee systems, members of the National Guard have been stationed at these systems 24/7 in order to monitor signs of erosion. If erosion is detected, the Army Corps of Engineers will repair the eroded and weak spots before a breach can occurrr. 

What’s to Come

On June 2nd, President Trump approved Oklahoma’s request for additional assistance for Muskogee, Tulsa, and Wagoner counties which were recently affected by intense flooding. In these three counties, 517 homes have experienced major damage while 335 homes have been destroyed. As damage assessments continue throughout Oklahoma, it is likely that additional federal assistance will be requested for more counties as well.

Sources and Further Reading

Governor Stitt Declares State of Emergency Due to Severe Storms and Flooding – OK.GOV

Governor Stitt Seeks SBA Disaster Assistance for Bryan and Pittsburg Counties – OK.GOV

Oklahoma Prepares for Severe Weather Today and Tomorrow – OK.GOV

White House Approves Request for Flood Aid – OK.GOV

Tetanus Shots for El Reno Tornado and Storm Victims – OK.GOV

Disaster Housing Grants Available – OHFA

DEQ Offering Free Testing to All 77 Counties for Private Wells Impacted by Flooding – DEQ

Oklahoma Braces for the Worst: More Rain, Eroding Levees and Looters – Fox News

Governor Stitt Announces Federal Assistance Granted for Oklahomans Devastated by Floods – OK.GOV