CN takes steps to help if floods arise

02/12/2018 12:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Andrew Luethje, Brad Wagnon and Shaelin Beaver fill and tie sandbags in Tahlequah. Cherokee Nation Emergency Management is providing 10,000 sandbags to communities and individuals within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The entrance to Cherokee Nation citizens Al and Frankie Herrin’s home was impassable due to the flooding on Dec. 28, 2015. Their property is located just off the bank of the Illinois River near Welling Road in the Boudinot Community in Tahlequah. The tribe’s Emergency Management is taking a proactive initiative to prepare the area in case such flooding happens again. ARCHIVE
TAHLEQUAH (AP) – After the massive floods that impacted the greater Tahlequah area in 2015 and 2017, Cherokee Nation Emergency Management is taking a proactive initiative to prepare the community in case it happens again.

The CNEM worked to fill 10,000 sandbags for use by community members in the tribe’s 14 jurisdictional counties, with the goal reducing the chances of floodwater destruction.

“Every year I’ve been here, we have had a flood,” Jeremie Fisher, CNEM manager, said. “So we’re going to be putting them strategically at different locations for our citizens: in the community centers, any of our community partners in our 14 counties that might need them, municipalities and other people who may need some on hand, just in case. The goal is to be proactive and help mitigate things before it happens.”

During the past two large floods, homes were lost, families were displaced and businesses suffered serious damage to infrastructure. CNEM was just one of the local entities that witnessed the destruction.

While a similar flood would likely cause damage to the city of Tahlequah no matter what, Philip Manes said he hopes the sandbags will prevent him from having to see as many displaced families.

“When we were helping people, I don’t think it had sunk in for them, yet,” said Manes. “A lot of them still hadn’t realized what they had lost, and they lost a lot. We were actually pulling out some people in the creek.”

In 2017, once the Tahlequah community learned about the flood, emergency agencies all over the area were scrambling to prepare. This year, forward thinking, combined with a new sandbag machine, has made it easier for the CNEM to get ready.

“Last year, I took five people down to Sallisaw, and we filled sandbags one afternoon right before the flood came,” said Fisher. “That was all done by hand and it was quite a deal. This machine eliminates a lot of the back work and makes it a lot easier.”

The CNEM has already bagged around 1,000 bags after the tribe purchased 50 tons of sand. Fisher said 50 more tons of sand could be needed before all 10,000 bags are filled.

There will be no cost for the sandbags, which the tribe planned to begin distributing Jan. 30. There’s no limit to how many bags a person can get, but with each bag weighing approximately 40 pounds, they will be distributed within reason. Ability to receive sandbags is not dependent on a person’s location in the 14 counties. Recipients do not have to be CN citizens.

“It’s really a community thing,” said Fisher. “When the river floods, it really doesn’t matter; water runs through Cherokee and non-Cherokee homes the same way. So the idea is that we would just be an asset to our 14 counties and have a resource they may not be able to have.”


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