A rainstorm over the weekend forced roads to shut down in Cherokee County Monday, as the Illinois River’s level rose to flood warning levels, but were reopened later in the evening.
“There was a very large amount of rain in the Illinois River watershed over the weekend, which led to the flooding event,” said Grand River Dam Authority Vice President of Corporation Communications Justin Alberty. “In know the Mesonet showed 7.75 inches in Jay yesterday, and other large amounts over into the Illinois watershed.”
With the river cresting at 24.11 feet at the gauge site in Watts overnight, at 21.42 feet at the Chewey gauge Monday morning, and at an approximate 20 feet at Tahlequah gauge Monday afternoon, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation crew members were out on State Highway 10, clearing debris from the road.
The water reached up to S.H. 10 outside of Hanging Rock Camp, flooded the campgrounds at Peyton’s Place, and it nearly reached the road by All American Floats. At the direction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the GRDA opened up floodgates on the Grand River system.
As of mid-afternoon, S.H. 10 between Hanging Rock and No Head Hollow, north of the intersection with U.S. Highway 62, was closed to through traffic. At around 8:45 p.m., it was reopened. According to GRDA, motorists should exercised “extreme caution,” as flood water deposited a thin layer of silt on the roadway, making the surface slippery.
As of late afternoon Monday, signs also blocked drivers from crossing the new Combs Bridge. The GRDA also advised that several secondary roads located immediately adjacent to the Illinois River have areas where water still remains on the roadway, or they were damaged by flooding.
According to the National Weather Service in Tulsa, several cabins and parks were severely flood and many others isolated. Officials added that the circumstances were “very dangerous” and constitute a “life-threatening situation.”
The Illinois River near Tahlequah is still under a flood warning, which is expected to be in effect until Tuesday evening. The flood stage is 11 feet, and NWS Tulsa expects the river to fall below that level by Tuesday afternoon. ODOT recommends that motorists refrain from driving around barricades and to not enter high water.
More data on river levels can be found at waterdata.usgs.gov.