The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 9, 2012

Residents recall catastrophic flood of '73

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Thirty-nine years ago today, it started raining and seemingly wouldn’t stop.

When it finally did end, nine people had lost their lives, and Enid suffered more than $70 million in damage during the worst flood in city history.

The flood was caused by locally intense thunderstorms centered over the Enid area. The storm produced rainfall amounts between 15 and 20 inches over a 15-hour period, with an incredible 12 inches falling within a three-hour period, according to National Weather Service.

In 1973, Margaret Bales lived in the Brookside addition, which was hit hard by the flood. She said one of her neighbors died during the flood, as did some puppies in a neighbor’s kennel.

Bales and a friend were at her home when the rain started, but they did not notice how hard it was raining or how deep the water was getting. By the time they realized it was flooding, water was coming into the house.

“We jumped out a kitchen window,” Bales said. “I was afraid we would drown, and the current must have been 70 mph.”

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She said they swam to a piece of fence that remained in the yard, and took off their clothing down to their underwear to lighten their weight.

They then swam to a neighbor’s boat, which sat on a trailer, and climbed in to it.

The current finally took the boat along and crashed it into a neighbor’s house. The neighbors were on the roof of their house and helped the girls from the boat, she said.

“We were just there in our underwear with rollers in our hair,” she said. “They chopped through the roof and brought some old fishing clothes out for us to wear.”

More than 2,000 people were left homeless by the flood, which covered many parts of Enid.

During the flood, St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center was evacuated. The hospital reportedly lost its medical supplies and electricity when water rose to a foot deep on the first floor.

About 75 cars parked in the parking lot were swept away into the creek and nearby Government Springs Park. Some were found several blocks away, according to a United Press International report at the time.

Brad Nulph, now circulation director of the News & Eagle, remembers the rain falling while he rode his motorcycle home from football practice.

“I barely made it home,” he said. “It poured down rain.”

Enid was preparing to play Ponca City that weekend. Later, when his family started to go eat, the car nearly died at Van Buren, but they were able to get home.

Nulph lived on Indian Terrace, which had a large drainage ditch behind it. The ditch filled up, and water came into the yard but did not flood the house. However, he said houses south of his family’s home were severely damaged by the water.

“No one died in our neighborhood, but a lot of the houses were destroyed,” he said.

Nulph said after the rain, it was still light outside, so he went out and waded in the streets. School was canceled the following day, and Nulph went around the neighborhood and helped neighbors carry things out of their homes.

Since the 1973 flood, the city of Enid engineering department began a planned improvement campaign to fix the city’s drainage ways and improve water runoff across the community.