MIAMI, Okla. — Numerous businesses in Miami took a nosedive in income this spring due to record-breaking flooding that hit the area in late May, forcing some closures and major remodels.
On May 24, the Neosho River crested near Commerce at 25.51 feet, making it the river’s fifth highest crest on record over the past 79 years, according to data from the National Weather Service. The Spring River also reached historic levels, rising to nearly 34 feet on May 23 near Quapaw. That was the eighth highest crest on record since 1940, according to the data from the weather service.
Piles of carpet, drywall, office supplies and furniture on Wednesday dotted East Steve Owens Boulevard as businesses were combating the aftermath of the flooding. Doors were left open to air out the moisture while other commercial operations were closed off with “Do Not Cross” tape. Two hotels on the strip sustained major damage, with all of their ground-floor rooms requiring major renovation.
Tar Creek runs directly behind Miami Auto Connection, which sells cars and zero-turn mowers. Dirk Woods, who has owned the business for four years, said the office was flooded with about 2 feet of water. Woods said this was his first major flooding event.
“We got everything out the day before the flood and moved it to a different facility,” he said. “It took away two weeks of income since we were closed. We saved the carpet, and then we had to cut the walls out about 4 feet high. We should be back in business this week.”
Woods is still tallying up the total loss, but he believes the flood caused him thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.
“We don’t have flood insurance because it costs about $3,000 to $4,000 a year, and if it floods once every 10 to 15 years," then it’s really not worth spending that amount of money, he said.
Other businesses were prepared for the worst. Rawlins Automotive and Performance Repair at 1006 E. Steve Owens Blvd. was also affected by the flood. David Rawlins, a partner with the shop, said the automotive garage and business office had about 3 feet of floodwater, but the business at least got a head start.
“I was told plenty of time ahead, so I was able to get everything out,” he said. “I was contacted by our landlord Tuesday (May 21) morning when they thought it was going to flood that evening. We came in Tuesday and moved all of the customer cars, got everything out of the shop, so it didn’t damage anything in the shop. We didn’t lose anything, as far as personal stuff or cars, but if we hadn’t prepared, it would’ve gotten everything.”
The shop was closed for two weeks while the flooding slowly receded. It reopened its doors on Monday of this week. Rawlins said the renovations should be completed over the next two weeks.
“They still have to come in and tear out the walls and redo the office, waiting area,” Rawlins said. “It didn’t reach the electrical (system). We still have a little smell, but they’re going to come power-wash the driveway. Everything should be back up and running soon.”
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College officials said they sustained over half a million dollars’ worth of damage from the floodwater. Mark Rasor, NEO’s vice president for fiscal affairs, told the Globe on Wednesday that several playing fields and buildings were underwater when the river crested. The Neosho River crest hit the college campus on Sunday, May 26.
Areas on campus that were affected include the storage area under the grandstands, the baseball locker room and offices, the bus barn, the baseball indoor area, the football practice field, as well as the baseball, softball and soccer practice fields. Rasor said the cleanup is going to cost anywhere from $90,000 to $200,000.
“We did have a little bit of warning (48 hours), so we were able to get things like equipment out, and that saved us money,” Rasor said. “Going in and restoring the buildings, I have an estimate of about $400,000. Lost equipment like lockers will probably add another $100,000. I have no idea yet on the baseball and softball fields because we’re most likely going to have to rebuild them.”
The college is currently testing the playing fields for lead and other heavy metals because of the overflow from Tar Creek. The buildings have been power-washed and sanitized. Rasor compared the recent flood to the one that hit the region in 2007, when the east side of campus was underwater.
“We got pretty lucky this year, and it could’ve been a lot worse,” he said. “In 2007, the gymnasium where we play basketball had 40 inches of water. It didn’t get that high this year. The last flood we had like this was in 1986. This flood was different than in the past because the water came up and just sat. The water didn’t get off of the athletic fields until late last week.”
Rasor said officials hope to have the renovations completed by the start of the upcoming semester in August.
Several nearby residences also sustained flood damage. Zachary Moore and Robby DeYoung were doing interior demolition work on rental properties across the street from the college on Wednesday along East Central. Moore said one of the homes had about 35 inches of floodwater in the interior and reached up to 55 inches on the outside.