Despite Lack of Flood Coverage, Agent Helps Okla. Bar Owner Mop up

June 18, 2007

Liz Crites, of Hobart, Okla., knew the floor, carpet and karaoke system ruined by floodwaters weren’t covered by her insurance policy, but she managed to find a ray of sunshine in the rain.

Crites’ insurance agent, Justin Krieger, was among the volunteers on June 17 helping her clean up after persisent heavy rain forced local creeks from their banks and swamped parts of the Kiowa County town of Hobart.

“It’s nice if you can get your insurance agent to help you with work even if you’re not covered for this,” said Crites, whose bar, “J.J.’s” sits in a floodplain near a dike of large rocks and earth that ruptured under railroad tracks crossing Oklahoma Highway 9.

Persistent heavy rain from a recent slow-moving storm system seeped into homes and inundated roads, leading emergency management officials to issue a plea to motorists to avoid driving into high water. About 35 people were evacuated from their homes and others were rescued from stranded vehicles.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter at the First Baptist Church and provided sleeping quarters and meals, said Michelann Ooten, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

Crites said flooding in the area about 10 years ago was bad, but not this bad.

“It’s ruined,” she said of her bar, which now has restrooms stained from muddy water. “(It’s) heartbreaking.”

Farther west, a steel pipe fence surrounding the Hobart Farm Center was washed out and large tractors and other equipment rested in the southeast corner of the property where the water deposited them.

“I’ve never seen this kind of devastation from water,” said Brian Wilmeth, the owner. “It’s a mess.”

Wilmeth said because of its location, his business isn’t insured either.

Elsewhere, 30 homes were affected by the flooding, including 18 swamped by water, Ooten said.

“The other 12 didn’t get flooding inside, but the floodwaters came up so close to the homes that it restricted access to them,” she said.

The storms were part of a system that also spawned several tornadoes in Major County last week.

“Several resident structures suffered minor damage due to winds from a tornado or whatever occurred,” Ooten said.

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