Rain-Swollen Rivers Crest in America's Plains
MIAMI, Okla. -- Rain stopped falling Wednesday in northeastern Oklahoma and some bloated rivers had crested, but many evacuees were unable to return to flooded homes in a three-state region and experts warned conditions may yet worsen.
Flood warnings were still in effect for the rain-swollen Neosho River, which forced hundreds of residents to evacuate, blocked access to key roads and flooded academic and residential buildings at a state college when it breached its banks.
The river crested at 29.2 feet (8.9 meters) early Wednesday and was not expected to fall below its flood stage of 15 feet (4.6 meters) until Sunday morning, said Chuck Hodges, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tulsa.
He predicted only a 20 to 30 percent chance over the next several days, and the change could not come soon enough for the water-logged region. Monday was the 20th straight day that rain had fallen in Oklahoma City.
The Caney River was still rising just north of Tulsa, threatening homes northeast of Collinsville on Wednesday.
More than two weeks of soaking weather has caused widespread flooding in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. The weather has been blamed for 11 deaths in Texas in the past two weeks and two people are missing.
While the rain had moved out of Oklahoma, rain fell along much of the Texas Gulf Coast during the morning and the weather service said more was likely from South Texas north to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
"We're going to see one of our heavier rain days of this event," meteorologist Monte Oaks said Wednesday morning in the weather service's Austin-San Antonio office.
In addition to the flooding, the Verdigris River had been carrying an oil slick of 42,000 gallons of crude oil that spilled from a flooded Kansas refinery toward Oklahoma's Lake Oologah reservoir, which supplies water to several cities.
However, environmental officials who flew over the area said there were no indications Tuesday the oil had entered the lake, DEQ spokeswoman Skylar McElhaney said Wednesday.
Upstream in Kansas, the Verdigris was beginning to recede at Coffeyville, but it was kept high by water being released from the Elk City and Fall River Toronto Lake reservoirs, said Jim Miller, Montgomery County emergency manager.
At least 1,000 people were out of their homes throughout southeast Kansas, said Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas adjutant general.
Associated Press writers Marcus Kabel in Springfield, Missouri, Margaret Stafford in Coffeyville, Kansas, and Roxana Hegeman in Wichita, Kansas, contributed to this report.
Source: Associated Press