The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

October 16, 2013

The flood of 1973 — could it happen again?

City of Enid makes improvements to floodplain

(Continued)

ENID, Okla. — Rare floods

Forty years ago, a 500-year flood caused massive damage to the city and killed nine people. Many of them lived in Brookside, where the torrent completely submerged houses and stranded survivors on roofs above a river that stretched up to almost a quarter-mile wide in some places.

That scenario still is real, according to both city and federal flood maps.

Berry’s argument, citing the city’s 2008-era flood hazard maps, is that areas that theoretically would have stayed dry during a 100-year flood are in danger because of land development upstream.

Some of those areas are owned by Berry’s real estate development firm.

A 500-year flood is considered a flood event that has a .2 percent chance of happening in any single year. A 100-year flood has a 1 percent chance of occurring.

City Manager Eric Benson disagrees with Berry’s assessment.

“I don’t see how an event like 1973 could happen again,” Benson said, adding the horrific flood of Oct. 10-11, 1973, could indeed repeat itself if the rainfall conditions were doubled. In the 1973 flood, National Weather Service recorded 15.68 inches of rain.

The city indeed has been working to improve flood control, but Benson said it did come at a delayed pace.

“In the past four years, we’ve done more than 30 miles of channel maintenance in the city. In the 20 years preceding that, none of it had been done,” he said.

The city still places Brookside high on the list of concern, but a solution would cost tens of millions of dollars through a massive stormwater detention facility, or by buying up houses in the neighborhood.

Also, Benson said, Berry has been “very good” about keeping the issue in focus.

“We absolutely agree that there is a need for a more-than-sober approach to this calamity,” Benson said. “I agree with Bob in that stormwater and drainage and flood protection is a key priority for any community.”

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