The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

October 10, 2013

1973’s flash flood left tragedy, harrowing stories in its wake

— Forty years ago today, people in Enid were waking up to just how bad the devastation was.

For many people, they knew it rained hard the previous day and night. Really hard. But, they didn’t fully grasp the situation until the next morning when they could see what had happened, when they started to hear the stories of tragedy, of narrow escapes and of heroic rescues.

Oct. 10-11, 1973, will never be forgotten in our community.

That’s when it started raining and seemed like it would never stop. National Weather Service recorded an official total of 15.68 inches of rain in 13 hours. An unbelievable 12 inches fell in one three-hour period.

When it was over, nine people were dead in the flash flood and hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed. Anyone affected by the flood can say their lives were changed forever.

Those who lived in Enid then remember the photographs.

Houses were pushed off their foundations. Cars were stacked on top of each other. In one that appeared Thursday in the Enid News & Eagle, a boat was shown near a parking lot by St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, then known as St. Mary’s Hospital.

The Brookside addition on the southeast side of Enid was particularly hard hit. The water roared down Boggy Creek and devastated the area. Many people there survived by climbing into their attics, then chopping holes in their roofs and climbing out and up to safety.

People brought in their boats to bring people to safety.

In one instance, Frisco Railroad brakeman Tom Baker dove into the water to save a small child who had been ripped from its mother’s arms.

Enid has had other floods, before and since, but 1973 is the one that stands out.

We all hope it won’t happen again, but we also know in the back of our minds it could happen again. It happened once, so obviously it’s possible again.

People, though, are more weather-aware than they were before. Flood insurance is available, but people have to understand that typical homeowner’s policies won’t cover floods. People need flood insurance.

The city, too, over the years has taken steps to prevent a repeat of the devastating 1973 flood. What we all can do is pay attention to the warnings and take the steps necessary to keep ourselves safe, evacuating to higher ground if need be.

Ultimately, though, it’s going to be nature that decides what happens. If it rains enough, no matter what precautions we take, flooding will happen, and damage will occur. We just need to do what we can to minimize the risks to ourselves.

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