Weather Beginning to Cooperate With Flood Cleanup Efforts in Kansas, Oklahoma

Floodwater slowly subsided Thursday in parts of Oklahoma and Kansas, though forecasters warned that isolated storms could hamper efforts to clean up after weeks of heavy rain damaged homes, businesses and roads.

"Rain is not out of the forecast but it's not expected to be any significant amounts to affect the rivers in any significant way," said Daryl Williams, a National Weather Service forecaster in Norman.

The weather had already been blamed for 11 deaths in Texas over the past two weeks and the death of a 16-year-old girl in Missouri. The teenager's body was found Wednesday night in a submerged SUV after she apparently tried to cross a flooded creek.

The worst flood damage was in Miami, Okla., where the Neosho River crested at about 29 feet, its highest stage since 1951. The river was not expected to be back within its banks until late Sunday.

"We're starting to see an average drop of about a half-inch every hour," City Manager Mike Spurgeon said.

A shelter set up in the city housed about 55 people, and flood damage was expected to affect about 600 homes and businesses, Spurgeon said. More than 30 roads in and out of the city of 13,500 were still closed Thursday due to flooding.

Spurgeon estimated it could take six months to a year to rebuild in the parts of town most heavily damaged.

"It's going to take a while for some of these people to get back on their feet," said Joyce Heeney, working at the First Baptist Church of Miami, one of the overflow shelters in town. "We had one family that left (their home) with nothing."

Concerns also eased Thursday that a full Lake Texoma along the Oklahoma-Texas line would send floodwaters into the Red River.

Ross Adkins, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said water could spill over the Denison Dam, possibly Thursday, but no major damage to homes was anticipated. The last major flood was nearly 5 feet over the spillway in 1990. This year's level is expected to crest at 1 foot over the spillway.

Still, residents, particularly those living in farm areas near the river, were warned to take precautions.

"(We're) warning residents along the Red River to move all livestock, equipment and other necessary belongings to higher ground," Bryan County Emergency Management Director James Dalton said. "We are also urging residents to have an initial evacuation plan, should conditions threaten homes in the area."

Thursday, the National Weather Service forecast a return to drier conditions in northeastern Oklahoma over the next 10 days, with an occasional isolated rain shower.

About 50 Oklahoma Army National Guard troops worked 12-hour shifts providing security in flood-ravaged neighborhoods.

As floodwaters receded in hard-hit southeastern Kansas Thursday, emergency personnel worked to get several semitrailer loads of bottled water into flooded communities where water treatments plants were down because of high water or power loss.

The area was mostly spared in overnight storms. The half inch or so of rain that fell was not expected to raise river levels, which should continue to slowly fall over the next several days, said Andy Kleinsasser, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

But south-central Kansas was hard hit overnight torrential rains, especially in Sumner County where some areas got as much as three inches in just a few hours.

In Texas, heavy rain spread across wide areas of the state on Wednesday, causing minor street flooding. More than half the state's counties were under flash flood watches, flash flood warnings, flood warnings or a combination of watches and warnings Wednesday night.

The Trinity River in the Dallas-Fort Worth area was expected to crest at 37 feet, about 7 feet above flood stage. Corpus Christi recorded nearly 3 1/2 inches of rain by Wednesday evening on top of 10 inches that fell on Monday.

In northeastern Oklahoma, the Caney River began slowly falling after cresting at 34.18 feet, according to the National Weather Service. The river, which forced hundreds of residents near Bartlesville from their homes this week, wasn't expected to fall below flood stage until Sunday night, the weather service said.