Okmulgee residents lose everything in May 2022 flood

“The deafening sound of rain started at around noon,” says Billy Rose, “and by 2:30 am it was ‘get out with the clothes on our backs and grab the dogs’.”

Okmulgee resident, Billy Rose, and his 76-year-old mother, JoDale Gipson, say they had never experienced rain of this magnitude in the more than two decades they have lived here. The water was at chest height as they made their escape to higher ground where, fortunately, they had access to a functioning vehicle. Their other cars, along with everything else they own, are now under water.

Days later, Billy discovered the main road to his home has collapsed, a powerful example of the force of this storm. After taking an alternate route, Billy stood on the road, unable to access his property. Large dead carp float in hisdriveway, a site he has never seen. He says the majority of their ten acres is still under water, which is unheard of nearly ten days after the flash flood. Although they are grateful they made it out of the storm alive, they realize putting their lives back together will not be easy and will not be fast. He says their home will need to be demolished…they will have to start over.

Not knowing how to go about this, they reached out to Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma (CCEOK). Billy and JoDale attended a Multi-Agency Resource Center, otherwise known as a MARC, where they met MaryLynn Lufkin, Director of Disaster Outreach for CCEOK, and her team of dedicated volunteers. After a disaster, MARC events bring together federal, state and local agencies, as well as human services organizations, to one central location for area victims to learn what resources are available for their specific needs. This particular MARC was set up for survivors of the May 4th flooding and tornadoes in Eastern Oklahoma and was held at Hillsdale High School in Muskogee. 

The MARC became an oasis for Billy and his mother, along with hundreds of others impacted by the storm. The two met with multiple agencies, receiving immediate help with food, clothing, shelter and cash-related problems. Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma’s Disaster Outreach program focuses more on long-term recovery assistance. Case management services are provided to help victims navigate the long process of recovery, because there is no quick fix to damage of this scope.

Billy, JoDale and their pets are now living at a local hotel. JoDale says she knows God will hear her prayers and provide what they need, one day at a time. She and her son are grateful for the support from CCEOK and know that, at least for tonight, they will sleep a little easier knowing they are not alone on the long difficult journey ahead.

Three weeks after the initial flood, Catholic Charities took a trip back to Okmulgee to check on Billy and JoDale. The damage to their home is extensive and they say the home will need to be torn down. JoDale says she has lost almost every single piece of property she owns. Electrical fires are now starting throughout the flood ravaged home. She and her son are still living in a hotel along with their pets.

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