WEBBERS FALLS, Okla. – A plan is finally in place to remove two barges from the Webbers Falls dam, but things could get worse before they get better.
The water needs to be lowered enough to be able to free them, which means the river could soon hit one of its lowest points in history.
In May, emergency management officials in eastern Oklahoma asked residents to completely evacuate the town due to dangers associated with flooding.
“Residents in the Town of Webbers Falls need to evacuate immediately. This is a life threatening situation. If you choose to stay you are doing so at your own risk,” officials wrote on Facebook.
The situation became even worse when authorities learned that the flooding caused two barges on the Arkansas River to become unsecured. Officials became worried that the barges would hit the dam, which was already under strain from the floodwaters.
The two barges struck the dam, which caused one of the barges to immediately sink. The force of the rushing watch caused the second barge to give way and sink as well.
At this point, officials tell KJRH that the gate is leaking water at 55,000 cubic feet per second. With the water level being so high, there hasn’t been an opportunity to fix the problem.
Families in Fort Gibson are now concerned they could lose their fresh water. Officials say they have come up with a plan just in case, but they will experience low water pressure.
Experts say retrieving the barges could take between two and three weeks.