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Flooding deaths bring Kiowa's together

Four of six flooding fatalities happened in Carnegie in Caddo County.  The area east of Carnegie has been flooded by the Washita River which swelled over its banks.  Emergency management says hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in Apache and Fort Cobb.  The Washita flows right outside of Fort Cobb, so it's flooded acres and acres.  Dozens of families and businesses are trying to clean up the flood damage and get their lives back together.

Three of the victims have long standing emotional and professional ties to hundreds of people.  All of them were relatives of the Kiowa Tribal Chairman, Billy Evans Horse. 

Verna Buffalo Meat says she and her family were coming back from Lawton on Highway 58, the same stretch of road Chairman Horse and his family travelled Saturday night.  He made it across in one car, but his wife Dorita, daughter Helen and niece Rose Saddleblanket - all in a second car - did not.

Verna said she had gone through that same flooded area just moments before and her car made it to higher ground.  By that time, the current had gotten much stronger.  They were stranded for eleven hours while emergency crews tended to the Horse family.  Verna and her family somehow made it through the raging waters that took her friend Dorita's life and the lives of two others. 

"My son-in-law said, ‘...can't make it...turn around and wait it out,'" said Buffalo Meat.  "We did....we parked on a hill and it rained and rained."  She never knew her old classmate had been carried away by the swift waters and didn't learn of it until they were rescued from the top of the hill that was surrounded by water.  "I think we were lucky," she said.  ‘Cause it could have been us.  But, the Lord had a hand upon us."

Verna, and other tribal members, said Dorita, the Tribal Chairman's wife, came to the Tribe's Elder Center for lunch daily.  Monday, the center was much quieter than usual.  Members told 7News that Dorita always managed to fill the place with laughter.  "We're used to seeing her come in.  She's so friendly," said David Geimausaddle.  He coordinates the elder's program and brought in a counselor to help elders deal with the loss.

It's not business as usual," said Gemiausaddle.  "When you get close to people, it's hard for you when you lose them, especially in a tragic situation."  He says it's a sad day in Kiowa County.  So many have been affected and it's time to stand behind Chairman Horse, now; just as he does for the tribe.

One of the victims attended Riverside Boarding School in Anadarko and, Monday, counselors were on hand to help students deal with the death of their 17 year old classmate.  To complicate matters, the school had to close.  Riverside Indian School is just too close to the Washita River and officials made the decision to close it down for two weeks.  After the call to delay classes, more than 500 students were bussed or taken to airports to go home.

Flood waters caused the main waterline, located beneath the school, to burst so the school is without water.  Before the line can be repaired, the water will have to dry thoroughly and that might be tough since there's ten feet of water in some spots. 

The tribe says it thanks all the emergency crews who worked tirelessly to recover the Horse family.  Funeral services for all three members will be held Thursday, August 23 at 10am at the Tribal Headquarters.  "Even though we are faced with adversity it's through our unity that we gain strength, says Gemiausaddle.  That's one of the things we are leaning upon."

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