By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Oklahoma has seen elevated levels of rain across the state in recent weeks, easing drought conditions while also leading to major flooding of area creeks and roads across Kay County, especially in the Newkirk area. Those storms also led to a power outage in Newkirk due to high winds early Wednesday morning, July 29, as residents woke up to see a town virtually underwater in places, all in what has been a wetter summer than normal.
Oklahoma Mesonet stations reported multiple inches of rain across the area. In Newkirk, the Mesonet recorded 4.24 in. Other area stations reported similar amounts, including 5.21 in. in Blackwell, 2.39 in. in Burbank, 4.08 in Medford and 2.96 in Foraker.
The worst of the storms hit Newkirk July 29, leaving 6 in.-7 in. of rain early in the morning. Coming out of Kansas about 6 a.m., many residents woke up to find flooded streets, driveways and alleys. No real damage from wind or hail was reported, officials said.
“It lasted about an hour or so. We lost power about 6:45 a.m. Just after 7, it was about done,” said Newkirk Fire Chief Adam Longcrier. “I don’t think there was any wind damage at all. Power was back on pretty quickly.”
The outage followed a previous outage event Tuesday, when an OG&E line went down between Newkirk and Peckham, cutting electricity to numerous communities in eastern Kay County. That outage lasted from about 6 – 11:45 p.m.
“(The line) broke free from the pole, which served Newkirk, Peckham, Braman, almost to Ferguson Road,” he said. “It caused a major power outage.”
There was a lot of flooding in the area, from city streets to county roads and creeks, with several spots in Newkirk in particular, including Peckham and Pleasantview roads.
“River Road was flooded from ‘J’ Street to Pine Street, and Peckham Road and Pleasantview,” Longcrier said. “It was pretty extensive. The flooding was pretty deep, at least a foot deep.”
Many roads and creeks outside Newkirk also saw much flooding, with some roads being impassable due to the water although that was largely local along individual creeks.
“It was mostly where the creek topped the road in the creek bed,” said Kay County District Two Commissioner Jason Shanks, Newkirk. “Every mile, there’ll be a bad spot.”
Heavy rains have been known to cause crop loss from erosion and flooding, but with summer crops like corn, cotton, soybeans and sorghum maturing, it is believed they will largely be okay.
“There is definitely going to some erosion problems, but most of our summer crops: soybeans, corn and cotton, they are going to be better matured, and the plants will have a root structure,” said Kay County Extension Ag Educator Shannon Mallory.
He added that there could be other problems, such as standing water or fungal diseases.
“Could there be fields that wash out? Certainly, but in general, just erosion (itself) will not be a problem, because if there is crop loss, it will be standing water, root rot, fungal problems,” he said. “It looks like, overall, it’ll be fine, but if you have areas where water is standing in the field, it remains to be seen.”
Much of Oklahoma has experienced drought conditions in some form for a while, including Kay County. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of Kay County was listed as in Moderate Drought conditions, the second out of five designations, the worst being Extreme Drought. As of the July 30 drought report indicated that Kay County is “Abnormally Dry,” the lowest drought rating on the report. A new report has been released today, Aug. 6.
As for where the heavy rains have been coming from, it is simply typical summer precipitation for north-central Oklahoma, just at an elevated level.
“This is not too unusual for summer. We have a lot of moisture in the air right now, so it doesn’t take a lot to start a few storms,” said meteorologist Matthew Day, National Weather Service, Norman, Okla. “Generally, it has been a little bit of the heat and humidity, but also a complex of thunderstorms from Kansas and Colorado that swept down through here. It varies from summer to summer, and it’s a little on the wet side this year.”
Longcrier added, “It’s just our summer rain season here; we’re just getting a little more of it this year.”