Local fire departments and rescue crews descended upon the Fiddler’s Bend area of Flint Creek in southern Delaware County Wednesday morning as extensive flooding brought about by heavy rainfall on Tuesday forced the evacuation of residents from their homes.
Units began arriving at the scene at 6:00 AM Wednesday morning. In all, responders from the Kansas Fire and Rescue Department, the Siloam Springs Fire Department, the West Siloam Springs Fire Department, the Eucha Fire Department, the Cherokee Nation EMS, the Cherokee Nation Marshall’s Office, and the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department evacuated by boat fourteen people from their flood damaged homes.
A main concern of medical crews was hypothermia as some victims of the flood may have been exposed to the chilly environment while their homes filled with water. None of those rescued Wednesday morning required medical attention at the scene. A staging area was set up by emergency crews at the West Siloam Springs Fire Department to provide evacuees with food and shelter and to help them make temporary living arrangements.
The floodwater varied in depth throughout the development. One family that was rescued had been forced to the second story of their home, as the first floor was completely submerged. Other homes were standing in almost three feet of water. In some parts of the complex school buses were submerged to their roof.
“This is probably the worst it’s ever flooded down here,” said year-round resident Lee Truitt. “It’s worse than what we got back in ’93 and ’94.”
Truitt’s home was filled with water of approximately six feet in depth. He and his wife were brought to dry land by boats operated by the Eucha Fire Department.
“We had just put new carpet and new tile in the cabin last year,” Truitt lamented.
James Kennemer of Tulsa owns a cabin in the Fiddler’s Bend complex.
“A friend who spends his summers up here called me this morning (in Tulsa) from his home in Florida to tell me that my cabin was probably underwater,” Kennemer said. “He was checking the weather on the internet.”
Homes in the complex are not eligible for flood insurance.
Carl Chism said his dog Molly, a terrier mix, awoke him Wednesday morning as the waters began to rise. Chism attempted to drive out of the complex in his truck but could not pass. He abandoned his truck in the water and was brought ashore by the rescue boats.
The rescue boats made six trips into the water. A woman and her four children were among those that the crews rescued.
One person who was evacuated by boat had tried to prepare for high waters. Upon going to bed Tuesday night the man had tied a canoe to a post on his back porch. But when morning broke the waters had carried his back porch- and his canoe- off into the depths.
Authorities said that the floodwater in the complex had risen almost one foot between 6AM and 9AM and that it was still rising at noon on Wednesday.
Like all those rescued Steve Randall, Delaware County Commissioner for the Oklahoma Scenic River Commission, had high praise for the responders at the scene Wednesday morning.
“These guys did an exemplary job today,” said Randall. “Without them we’d have been in a world of hurt. There’s no money value on life.”
Aside from the fourteen residents one dog and one cat were also rescued. Three residents of the complex were able to make it to dry land with their own canoe.
Approximately thirty-five people live in the complex year-round according to estimates from residents at the scene Wednesday morning. That number usually doubles in the summer as vacationers take up residence in the cabins located there.