Oklahoma City Flooding Strands Drivers, Stuns City

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Torrential rains fell in the metro Oklahoma City area this morning, causing flash floods that stranded motorists across the city. One young woman had to be rescued from a tree, where she took shelter from the rushing water; the first attempt to get her to safety ended with three would-be rescuers joining her in the trees when their boat took on water and sank. All four were rescued by a second crew in a second boat.

It's been that kind of crazy day here. Then again, it's been a crazy year for weather in general in Oklahoma City. A Christmas Eve blizzard dumped 14 inches of snow on the city; a hail storm four weeks ago pummeled us with softball-size hunks of ice. And we've had a few tornadoes and couple of earthquakes in there, too.

And now the floods have come.

I woke up at 3:15 this morning to the sound of crashing thunder and sheeting rain. What I did not hear, thankfully, was the drip drip drip of my hail-damaged roof leaking (that came later). By 5:00 am, our street was completely flooded, with water rushing up over the curbs and into the lawns. My husband stood in our living room, drinking his tea and watching our neighbors' trash cans wash down the road. "I think ours is somewhere down there," he said, pointing vaguely to the end of the block.

By 8:00 am, the bathroom ceiling was leaking, again, all over the counter. We put buckets out and got our raincoats on and headed out to take our sons to camp. Because we weren't going to let a little rain stop us!

Honestly, we had no idea what we were getting into.

We have a little lake in our development; it feeds into a creek. We expected the creek to be swollen, but what we did not expect was for the lake to have overflowed its banks and washed out the street. My husband -- who grew up blocks from here -- said, "I have never seen it like that before."

We left our neighborhood and got up on to the turnpike, on the theory that the traffic would be better there than on the city streets. Not far from our house, we passed over what is generally acknowledged to be Northwest Oklahoma City's busiest intersection, home to a Walmart and a Target and dozens of other businesses. I looked out over the road and saw cars up to their side mirrors in water.

It was incredible.

My friend Lisa had jury duty this morning; what should have been a 10-minute drive to the courthouse took 45 minutes. "As soon as I exited off of the waterway, formerly I-40," she joked, "I found myself in water up to the top of the wheel wells [of her Toyota Camry]. I proceeded to panic because there were stranded cars all around me. Only by God's grace did I make it to a parking garage from where I sprinted to the courthouse. Another bolt of lightning struck about 25 feet away, TO THE GROUND, so I dropped the umbrella and sprinted to the courthouse in fear of my life. It was a fun morning!"

Here's the thing about people who live in Oklahoma: they're not afraid of a little bad weather. Even sudden extreme weather doesn't phase the locals -- tornadoes, for example, are just part of life in Oklahoma.

But even the most jaded Okies are stunned by this storm. Our average annual rainfall is 36 inches; the storm this morning, by some estimates, brought 10 inches of rain to some neighborhoods, in just a few hours. And it's still raining as I write this.

I think we were also caught off guard by the fact that the flooding happened in the most mundane of places -- the intersection in front of the Walmart, for example, or in local residential areas. These aren't places typically affected by flooding, and certainly not by floods of this magnitude.

So how bad was the flooding? Take a look. Video shot by local residents shows their street, looking more like a river than a road. (My family used to live at the other end of that block, just to tell you how close to home this was for me.)

Local news stations carried live shots of submerged cars all over the metro; the most stunning video, for us, was shot at an intersection less than two miles from our house, where ten cars were stranded by high water. Edmond, OK, resident Chris Hultner shot some amazing photos of flooding in his neighborhood. The city of Edmond has set up shelters for residents displaced by the flooding; city officials are recommending that people stay off the roads as much as possible. The rain is expected to continue through Tuesday.

Susan Wagner writes about pragmatic fashion at The Working Closet and chic suburban living at Friday Playdate. She lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and two sons (all of whom are natives and thus not really thrown by the weather).


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