Making waves on Doolin: City underwater

by Charles Gerian

April showers are supposed to bring May flowers, but after substantial rainfall caused the Chikaskia River just north of Doolin to rise up to a near-record 34.48 feet it would appear “May showers” are as prevalent as any other month.

Last week the City of Blackwell saw several low-lying areas of town submerged in floodwater including a stretch of Doolin Avenue at the Main intersection, Florence Street and 1st, Santa Fe, 6th Street, East Adams, East Blackwell, Padon, and Oklahoma as well as the B Street Ballpark, Legion Park, and not-surprisingly Riverside Park. Several rural locations were flooded also, including Radio Tower Road.

“Severe weather and flooding like we had increases the amount of phone calls we get,” Chief of Police Dewayne Wood said, “people want to stay up to date on everything happening. Our dispatchers were under a lot of stress, and I think everyone in the City of Blackwell was stretched thin, but we all did some amazing work.”

Chief of Police Wood said that there were no flood-related accidents, but citations were written to those attempting to drive past barriers set up on the East side of town.

“We thankfully had no major accidents or injuries, but in some parts of town we had people attempting to drive around the barriers we had set up. The waves caused by through-traffic could have potentially caused some property damage, so we had to monitor those areas carefully,” said Wood.

On I-35, significant flooding had occurred between Wellington and the Kansas line, causing northbound traffic to be re-routed through Blackwell and up towards Newkirk. Cars, semis, and more were backed up as far as Wal-Mart on Doolin.

“I had never seen I-35 get flooded, in all my years working for the P.D. So that was a surprise. We had to call in extra officers, and had 6 on duty. Some were working traffic at Main and Doolin and others were watching the flooded areas of town,” Chief of Police Wood continued, “thankfully I don't believe any homes sustained water damage. I'm aware the Tabernacle church took some precautions and they only ended up with some water in their office.”

Wood applauded Emergency Manager Cory Hanebrink and Code Enforcement's Jerry Wieland for their work in getting around town to notify residents in the flood areas of evacuation notices.

“There were no mandatory evacuations, but everyone did such an incredible job staying on-top of the situation and helping to notify residents of the rising water levels,” said Wood, “everyone did well, working together across all departments. It's important to not only look after the safety of Blackwell residents but our own as well, and I believe everyone went above and beyond last week.”

Nearly 4 inches of rain fell in Blackwell over the last 10 days according to Severe Weather Operations Director Brian Muret. That, coupled with significant rainfall in Kansas had caused the Chikaskia River to rise significantly over Wednesday May 8 and crest just before noon on Thursday, May 9.

The City of Blackwell's Police and Fire Department had help coming from the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) and rescue workers from Mayes, Pryor, and Adair. These parties also assisted in central Texas last year during heavy flooding to metropolitan areas.