Tropical Depression Bill has forced the closure of several Oklahoma highways including Interstate 35 from Ardmore to Davis.
According to Captain Paul Timmons with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, I-35 is closed for a undetermined amount of time due to high water and a rock slide.
The highway connects Oklahoma City to Dallas-Forth Worth, and state troopers are helping clear dislodged boulders from the roadway.
Southbound lanes opened Thursday afternoon, but as of 3 p.m. a 4-mile stretch northbound I-35 is closed from exit 47 to exit 51, just south of Davis, and will remain closed for an undetermined amount of time.
NBC 5’s Ben Russell found backed up traffic that stretched for miles.
Kristen Greenwood, 20, took a back road to work because a lake was backing up onto the highway.
“I had to turn around. I couldn’t drive on the whole 10-mile stretch,” said Greenwood, from her job as a supervisor at Original Fried Pies in Davis.
“I was lucky because my exit was just after the lake, so I could get on, but all the rivers are flooding over the bridges and the lake is overflowing,” she said. “I’m staying at work until they tell me to leave.”
Gazing out the pie shop window, Greenwood estimated that the water on the other side of the parking lot was several feet deep: “Probably waist-deep on me, but I’m short.”
Traffic is being diverted to U.S. 77, according to Timmons. The Caddo Creek Bridge on U.S. 77 is down to one lane, so it could be slow going for many drivers.
Authorities recommend people who drive between Dallas and Oklahoma City seek an alternate route, such as Highway 69/75 through Durant or Interstate 44 through Lawton.
Missing Boy’s Body Recovered
There have been no reported injuries caused by the storm, which came ashore Tuesday in southeastern Texas as Tropical Storm Bill before settling down into a tropical depression. It has claimed at least one life, though, that of a 2-year-old southern Oklahoma boy who was pulled from his father’s arms by floodwaters late Wednesday.
Authorities found Jeremiah Mayer’s body Thursday afternoon. It was about 30 yards from where the boy was last seen after being swept out of his father’s arms Wednesday night.
Ardmore police Capt. Eric Hamblin said the boy’s father was fleeing the rising Hickory Creek when floodwaters swamped him. He said the creek rose 12 to 15 feet in less than an hour.
Bill came ashore as a tropical storm Tuesday southwest of Houston and dumped more than 11 inches of rain along the coast before racing north and eventually slowing as it crossed into Oklahoma. The Washita River basin, which largely runs along Interstate 35 in southern Oklahoma, absorbed the heaviest rains.
Elvin Sweeten, whose family owns a 600-acre homestead a few miles from the Washita, said the floodwaters had surrounded his ranch.
“I see water everywhere,” Sweeten said Thursday. “The entire ranch is under water.”
He said he and his son spent the night cutting fences so their cows and horses can escape to higher ground.
“We just stay here and hope that the water doesn’t get too much higher,” Sweeten said. “We have a boat. If we have to get out, we can.”
Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth