It’s been more than a week since the waters have subsided along the Arkansas River, yet many businesses are still assessing the damage left in the wake of recent floods.
Kent Herren, co-owner of Spring Creek Nursery, said it will still be a couple of months before they know the true extent of flood damage.
Spring Creek is on about 50 acres of land along the east bank of the Arkansas River near 110th Street and Delaware Avenue. While the office and main nursery areas didn’t flood, a large swath of a 30-acre tree farm was submerged for more than a week.
There are about 17,000 trees in the farm, and early estimates suggest about 15%-20% of them are a total loss.
The bulk of the lost inventory from the farm were 2-year-old trees that would have been ready for sale later this year.
Crews are currently in the process of throwing away trees that they know for sure are dead, and many young trees are being repotted.
“Mentally, it kills you. Once we get all of this death cleaned up, we can move forward mentally and physically,” Herren said. “It’s going to take probably two years to get that tree farm back in shape.”
Spring Creek sits a couple of hundred yards off the river, and the reason its tree farm flooded wasn’t because of water over the banks of the river, but from water flooding out of Vensel Creek, which runs from the river through the property.
This is the second major flood Herren has experienced. In 1986 he worked at another nursery, just south of Spring Creek.
During the 1986 flood, water was moving through the dam at 307,000 cubic feet per second.
As the water movement through the dam reached 275,000 cubic feet per second, and the talks of 305,000 cubic feet began circulating, Herren was apprehensive of the threat of more severe flooding damage.
“We would have had water in the entire nursery,” he said. “We would have suffered a ton more damage, but luckily, we didn’t.”
But while the water level didn’t get as high as it did 33 years ago, the damage to the tree farm was more severe than what Herren experienced years ago because of the length of time the water was on the ground.
In 1986, the water was up and down in about 12 hours.
One common factor Herren shared with both floods is that at neither time did his nursery have flood insurance.
“The cost is fairly prohibitive, so you’ve got to weigh if it’s going to happen every 30 years, is it going to be worth paying all that money for 29 years for the benefits of one year,” Herren said. “In this case, it may have been worth it. We just don’t know yet.”
According to the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency, about 600 structures took on water during the floods. The number of businesses included in that count is unknown, but officials said the majority of those structures were homes.
The unincorporated Town and Country addition west of Sand Springs accounted for 300 of those structures, with 115 in Sand Springs alone.
Kristen Cepak, president of the Sand Springs Chamber of Commerce, said few of her members, and other businesses in the area, took on water damage.
Hargrove Manufacturing, a maker of gas fireplace logs, had to evacuate its facility after the main office took on several inches of water. It hopes to be back at full production by Monday.
Sand Springs Sand and Gravel was forced to close until late last week.
“Once the city blocked off the roads, some of the businesses were impacted because they couldn’t get in or out,” Cepak said.
The U.S. Small Business Administration and Oklahoma Small Business Development Center opened a business recovery center last week designed to help businesses get connected with funds to help with the recovery process.
Roger Busch, SBA spokesman, said several options are available to business owners, nonprofit agencies and even homeowners and renters for low-interest rate loans for both physical damage and economic losses.
“A business on the other side of town might not have had any physical damage, but no one is coming in to buy their goodies,” Busch said.
Qualifying businesses can get loans up to $2 million at a fixed 4% interest rate to pay for any losses that aren’t covered by insurance. Nonprofits can get a 2.75% interest rate on similar loans.
Businesses are encouraged to register with FEMA before heading to the business development center, which is set up at Langston University.
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