Floodwaters surpass 1986 flood event

By Krista DuhonThe News-Record

City officials were expecting nothing less than a repeat of a 1986 flood event that inundated Miami with water and forced the evacuation of more than 500 homes - their predictions were on the mark.

Miami is now experiencing its second-greatest flood of record.

Flood markers, as remembered in 1986, were surpassed at 1 a.m. today, according to Miami Fire Chief Kevin Trease. That flood, second only to the flood of 1951, saw the Neosho River crest at 26.26 feet at Stepp's Ford bridge in Commerce.

The current flooding event is expected to push the Neosho River to near 32 feet - 17 feet above flood stage - and water in Miami is anticipated to be several feet higher than was recorded in the 1986 flood.

As of 7 a.m. today, the Neosho River at Commerce was at 28.02 feet and emergency personnel said early crest predictions of 28 feet will be exceeded by as much as 4 feet as water continued to move through the river channel at more than 148,800 cubic feet per second.

At the Pensacola Dam, the Grand Lake Level pushed the 750-foot mean sea level mark at 749.75 feet. The flood pool was 44.24-percent full as an water was released at an estimated 48,879 cubic feet per second.

Local and state officials say the current flood is a a naturally occuring event that could not have been avoided, despite any pre-release efforts of the Grand River Dam Authority or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Where they help us now is in how quickly they can move the water out of here,” Miami Mayor Brent Brassfield said.

Local officials say residents may not see waters begin to recede until the weekend as cresting in Miami is expected to occur Wednesday.

In a morning press conference held Monday at the Miami Civic Center, city manager Michael Spurgeon asked residents who experienced flooding in 1986 to make plans to evacuate.

Two shelters are in place and others are in stand-by mode, according to Tammie Lewis of the American Red Cross.

Miami Police Chief Gary Anderson and Assistant Police Chief Jeff Coble prepared for an estimated 22 closures of city intersections and voluntary evacuations of businesses and residences along the Neosho River and Tar Creek.

As of 4 p.m., four roads were closed in and around Miami. Oklahoma Highway 125 - Miami's south entrance - was the first to close. Closures later followed on Oklahoma Highway 10 at Coal Creek, Elm Street, East Steve Owens Boulevard south to 6th Street and P Street NW.

Prior to 9 p.m., the 800 block of West Central Ave. was closed as were several other streets including the 100 block of J NW, Steve Owens Boulevard at Elm Street, 16 E NW and an additional portion of Steve Owens Boulevard from where it intersects with Elm Street to its 1300 block.

By midnight on Monday, emergency management volunteers closed U.S. Highway 69, limiting another south corridor to Miami.

City officials activated the emergency operations center late Sunday as city, county and state officials gathered with emergency management personnel and local volunteers to prepare for a slow-moving “wall of water” predicted to swell the Neosho River to record levels.

Fire and medical emergency teams have been placed at strategic points to make emergency services available in areas where service from Miami may have otherwise been severed.

Arrangements have been made with area volunteer fire departments for mutual aid if the need arises.

Miami residents should anticipate the possible interruption of power as water swells into low-lying neighborhoods, according to city engineer Jerry Ruse.

Ruse also advised today that at least one sewer system on the southwest side of town is struggling. Residents in that area are asked to limit water usage until waters recede.

City officials are also asking people to stop traveling to the city's flooded areas unless they have a reason to do so.

Spectators are hindering evacuation efforts as they interrupt the traffic flow.