The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is conducting around-the-clock monitoring of bridges over swelling waters, with the agency’s primary concern discouraging motorists from circumnavigating barricades guarding flooded roadways.
Kenna Mitchell, an ODOT spokeswoman, said there isn’t an employee stationed at each bridge but that they do regularly drive loops to check on them. Mitchell said the agency also receives good information from emergency management about water levels and uses flow charts to compare with bridge sites.
She said the increasing Keystone Dam output flow isn’t a factor for structural integrity. The main issue is water elevation, which would become a concern for debris if waters reach to the beams of the high-rise bridges.
“The big concern is just the traveling public at this point,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell emphasized that a motorist who encounters a blockade across a flooded roadway should turn around.
A 53-year-old Perkins woman died late Tuesday afternoon in Payne County after trying to drive across a flooded roadway.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported Laura Renee Moorman apparently drowned after driving a PT Cruiser around a high-water sign. The flowing water carried the car off the east side of Perkins Road near Oklahoma 33, submerging it in about 10 feet of water.
“Don’t drive into it,” Mitchell said. “You just don’t know what’s under the water or how fast it’s moving.”
She said there are some areas that are difficult to navigate around closed highways or local roads. ODOT advises people in those areas not to travel because “the conditions change so rapidly as the flood waters move through.”
People can visit ODOT’s website to view an interactive road conditions and closures map.
Mitchell said most of the closings so far are on low-lying highways.
Once waters recede, Mitchell said crews will check for pavement damage and erosion problems before re-opening roads.
“We are cycling through on different shifts; it’s all hands on deck right now,” she said.
I-40 reopened; other highways still closed
Interstate 40 and Oklahoma 100 over the Arkansas River at Webbers Falls near the Muskogee-Sequoyah County line reopened Thursday, according to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
Officials had been monitoring whether debris from two loose barges that sunk after crashing into Lock and Dam 16 at Webbers Falls could affect the I-40 bridge.
As of 4 p.m. Thursday, ODOT listed the following highways as closed until further notice because of flooding:
• Oklahoma 8/Oklahoma 11 is closed between U.S. 64 north of Cherokee to the Oklahoma 58 junction.
• The Interstate 40 southern service road (old 66) at mile marker 19 is closed for extended repairs due to road damage.
• Oklahoma 80 is closed four miles west of Hulbert near Fort Gibson Lake.
• Oklahoma 80 is closed near the Canyon Rd. access area just north of Fort Gibson.
• Oklahoma 5B is closed between Oklahoma 5A and U.S. 70.
• Oklahoma 127 is closed near Jay just west of U.S. 59 due to a damaged drainage structure.
• Oklahoma 48A is closed to through traffic between the Oklahoma 48 junction in Coleman and Oklahoma 7 in Milburn due to a damaged construction detour.
• U.S. 77 is closed between Oklahoma 156 and southern Tonkawa.
• Oklahoma 74F is closed between Cashion and Oklahoma 33 due to pavement damage.
• Oklahoma 77-Scenic is closed at Lake Murray Spillway.
• Oklahoma 66 is closed between U.S. 177 and Oklahoma 18 in Chandler.
• Oklahoma 82 is closed at Grand River south of Langley.
• Oklahoma 10 is closed 2 miles east of the U.S. 62 junction near Fort Gibson.
• U.S. 62 is closed between Oklahoma 80 near Fort Gibson and Oklahoma 165 in Muskogee.
• Oklahoma 104 is closed at Coal Creek near Haskell.
• Oklahoma 15 is closed between U.S. 77 and Red Rock.
• Oklahoma 156 is closed between Marland and U.S. 60/U.S. 177 in Kay County.
• Oklahoma 10 is closed east of U.S. 169 near Lenapah due to damage to a drain.
• Oklahoma 28 is closed between U.S. 60 and U.S. 169.
• U.S. 64 is closed between Pawnee and Oklahoma 18.
• Oklahoma 18 is closed at the Cimarron River between Cushing and the Oklahoma 51 junction.
• Oklahoma 125 is closed one mile south of Oklahoma 10 in Miami.
• U.S. 59/Oklahoma 10 is closed one mile west of U.S. 69.
• Oklahoma 10 is closed between U.S. 69 and the Oklahoma 69A junction in Miami.
• Oklahoma 69A is closed 1.5 miles north of Oklahoma 10 near Miami.
• U.S. 69 is closed between Oklahoma 1235 and U.S. 59/Oklahoma 10.
• Oklahoma 11 is closed from 76th St. North to 186th St. North.
• Oklahoma 20 is closed from U.S. 75 to west of Skiatook.
• Eastbound Oklahoma 51 is closed just west of Oklahoma 97.
• Oklahoma 16 is closed near the Muskogee Turnpike just north of Muskogee.
• Oklahoma 16 is closed northwest of Okay.
• Oklahoma 72 is closed from East 201st south to just north of the Arkansas River bridge.
• Oklahoma 123 is closed between Bartlesville and Dewey.
Chief Photographer Tom Gilbert went up in a helicopter to show what the flooding looked like on Wednesday afternoon on May 22.