This week’s flooding in Oklahoma is a repeat of what happened 33 years ago when 30,000 people were evacuated from 25 towns in the state.
Heavy rains were caused by the flow of moisture from Hurricane Paine into Oklahoma.
The 1986 flood not only forced evacuations but a swollen Cimarron River left the I-35 bridge damaged to the point it had to be closed. Northern Oklahoma received 10 to 20 inches of rain on top of previously saturated land, resulting in flooding and record high crests of the Arkansas, Caney, Canadian, South Canadian, Cimarron, Washita, Salt Fork, Neosho and Verdigris Rivers.
All residents of Webbers Falls, Jenks and Bixby were ordered to evacuate and two people lost their lives in the flooding.
The National Weather Service said 509 homes were destroyed and 3,957 others were damaged. Roads and bridges were washed out including two bridges over Interstate 35. Fifty-two of the state’s 77 counties suffered some type of flood damage.
At least 33 counties and the cities of Norman and Shawnee and 10 counties in Kansas were declared flood disaster areas. Damages were estimated at $350 million.
This week, the Cimarron river prompted a flood warning that will be in effect until Sunday. The National Weather Service expects the river to keep rising until it crests at nearly 25 feet Thursday night. It could result in the Cimarron River valley in Payne county being covered by flood waters 8 feet deep.