By JOSH NEWTON
Roads throughout Cherokee County were left in disrepair Thursday by an early-morning storm system that brought periods of flash flooding.
Northern Cherokee County was twice the focus of a tornado warning – one at about 2:30 a.m., and the second an hour later – after spotters observed rotation in the clouds, according to Tahlequah-Cherokee County Emergency Management Director Gary Dotson. The same system then moved north out of Cherokee County, causing greater damage in Mayes and Delaware counties.
Dotson said the system dumped as much as 4 inches of rain in parts of Cherokee County. Fire departments from Oaks, Lowrey and Tahlequah were called to three different swift-water rescues, but Dotson said there were no injuries.
Flooding on area roads had mostly subsided by Thursday afternoon. According to the National Weather Service, a flood warning will continue through Saturday evening for areas along the Illinois River, including Watts and Tahlequah.
According to the NWS, flood stage on the river is 11 feet, and levels were at nearly 8 feet at 1 p.m. Thursday. Moderate flooding is forecast, with levels near Tahlequah expected to rise above flood stage to nearly 14 feet by Saturday morning. Forecasts show the river should fall below flood stage early Saturday afternoon.
At 14 feet, moderate flooding should occur from Chewey Bridge and south toward the Tahlequah area. Access roads east of the Combs Bridge, near Eagle Bluff, are expected to be impassable, the NWS reported.
State officials were in town Thursday morning to meet with Emergency Management crews and survey local storm damage.
Meanwhile, temperatures Thursday night and Friday morning were expected to dip into the low 30s with a Friday afternoon high of 57. By Saturday, temperatures are expected to be back into the upper 60s, with more chances of storms by Monday.