OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)
Flash flooding across the Oklahoma City area Monday stranded commuters on washed-out roads and prompted crews to send boats into inundated neighborhoods, rescuing dozens of residents and motorists who sought safety in trees and on rooftops.
One boat carrying three rescuers to aid a 17-year-old girl seen on aerial television footage struggling to stay above water by grasping at tree branches sank in swift-moving floodwaters on the city's north side, said Battalion Fire Chief Kirk Wright.
All four were able to safely stand on branches in a group of trees and were rescued by a second boat, Deputy Fire Chief Marc Woodard said.
No injuries were immediately reported across the city.
Portions of three interstates and numerous thoroughfares in and out of the metro area were closed. Drivers were warned to stay off area roadways, Oklahoma Police Lt. Gamille Hardin said.
Dozens of stranded motorists were rescued from vehicles in the northern suburb of Edmond, where resident Ryan Hearne saw at least one man who abandoned his vehicle on a submerged bridge for a nearby tree before being rescued.
"The boat came through the floodwaters, and they grabbed him out of the tree and got him out of there," Hearne said. "You couldn't see the bridge at all. You couldn't see his vehicle. It was completely overrun with water."
A temporary shelter for displaced residents was set up at a local elementary school, said police spokeswoman Glynda Chu.
"We've got a very dangerous situation all over Edmond because of flooding," Chu said. "We had one officer who came in and rescued three carloads of people with families, including children and their pets."
Anywhere from 1 to 3 inches of rain an hour had fallen in the Oklahoma City area early Monday, and the National Weather Service said a few spots saw nearly 10 inches. Lightning knocked out electricity to some areas.
Weather service meteorologist Forrest Mitchell said showers and thunderstorms hit the area almost continually for the better part of six hours Monday morning. More rain was expected later Monday.
Aerial footage showed one northside Oklahoma City neighborhood where water tinged brick red from nearby Chisholm Creek sat hip-deep in some places and reached the tops of garages in others. Crews ferried families from their homes on small boats and jet skis. At least one person floated his way around on an innertube and other residents gathered in a garage as water worked its way up the driveway.
Fire crews went door-to-door in the northwest neighborhood of Ski Island, asking residents whose homes back up to Spring Creek to voluntarily evacuate while a nearby dam was evaluated.
Nearby, a group of bystanders watched Silver Lake overflow a road and dam complex. Two boats were upended against a guardrail at the dam, lodged there by the force of the debris-filled water.
"I've never seen it like this," said resident Jan Tipton. "This is incredible." Norman Cobb shook his head as he surveyed his flooded garage in the Silver Lake neighborhood.
"This is the most flooding that I've had since I've lived here," said Cobb, who moved into the house in 1987.
The main roadway into Will Rogers World Airport was shut down for more than an hour early Monday, and airport officials said several flight delays were reported. No problems were reported at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in downtown Oklahoma City, spokeswoman Elena Temple-Webb said.
"I think more people are concerned about whether they will be able to catch their flights home," Temple-Webb said.