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Flooding in Tahlequah causes road closures, impacts float operators

Posted at 9:00 PM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-29 22:00:48-04

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The sun may be shining today, but weather over the last 24 hours left its mark in Green Country.

Float operators along the Illinois River near Tahlequah are watching the water after 7 inches of rain fell over the past week in that area.

The rising waters caused major road closures and impacted some of the businesses.

Austin Spears is one of dozens of operators along the river.

“Right now, the water is around 21-22 feet. It’s starting to go down so we take a big breath of exhale on that one,” Spears said.

Hundreds of people go camping, kayaking, and floating at Arrowhead Resort along the Illinois River.

Wednesday's rain caused major flooding and covered part of the property.

“Where that big tree is right there, that’s where our bank is, and we usually bring in people that come in off the water. When they float, they go down there," Spears said.

Wednesday night, they moved their equipment to higher ground to keep it from getting swept away by the rising waters.

Spears considers himself lucky. He said back in 2017, flood waters caused major damage to at least 17 of his cabins with water levels reaching up to six feet of some of the facilities, creating a big mess.

“This is the kind of stuff you have to deal with, this muck," he said. "This is the kind of nasty stuff that if it does flood inside your facilities, this is the kind of stuff you have to clean up."

He said flooding that year also took a major financial hit on his business, which is why he's grateful this flood didn't cause the same damage.

“That would put us behind a couple of months, you have to gut everything it’s a huge process when something floods that you have to repair things," he said.

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