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Kim Shahan looks over what’s left of the bridge that provided alternate access to Camp Y’Shua in the Wichita Mountains. The only other way to access the camp is by a low-water crossing that floods when Medicine Creek rises.Kim Shahan looks over debris left in the wake of flooding that struck Camp Y’Shua last week. The floodwater carried off a 60-foot bridge that served as a high water crossing for access to the camp.

Floodwaters damage Camp Y'Shua bridge

More than a week after floodwaters receded, the effects are still being felt in Camp Y'Shua.

Nestled in the Wichita Mountains, the camp and the homes are only accessible by a low-water crossing on Medicine Creek and by a 60-foot metal bridge. Following a downpour of more than 8 inches May 23, the creek quickly rose, ripped trees out of the ground and carried them straight into the bridge.

"My wife was here and she said you could hear a loud pop, like an explosion," said grounds owner Kim Shahan. "The water rising wasn't the problem. It was a tree that had been carried down. It slammed against the bridge and the water pressure was so great that it broke the bridge completely off its foundation."

The bridge was carried down the raging creek close to 20 yards before it was pinned against another tree. When the water level fell, the bridge, the tree and plenty of debris were left on the grounds behind Shahan's home. The structure has remained in that position as Shahan contemplates what his next move will be. 

"I haven't really decided what we're going to do with it yet," he said. "We might be able to cut it down and sell it off for scrap metal or something like that."

Selling the structure for scrap might be Shahan's best option to help fund a replacement. He estimates replacing the bridge would be a $250,000 undertaking for materials and labor. The bridge, which was donated by Comanche County, was installed in 2007, following extensive flooding. Materials were donated and work was provided by members of the community. The rest of the project was financed by a small business loan from FEMA. Shahan said he will wait and see what kind of disaster relief is available through the state and federal governments and hopes FEMA will soon get involved to assist with the recovery process. 

"I know they have to have a certain amount of monetary damage in this area before they can get involved," he said. "This is certainly going to impact that. There are other people here who were affected even worse than we were."

In the meantime, Shahan will have to adjust the workings of Camp Y'Shua until a replacement can be installed. The low-water crossing is currently safe to use and with the lack of rain over the last week, he doesn't expect it to be a problem. But if more rain comes, there's only about a 2 foot leeway at the crossing before the water gets too high and it becomes inaccessible. If that happens, those who live in the area will have to wait it out. Shahan said he will have to create a plan for tourists and visitors.

"For me, it takes me back to the original days when we first opened and we would bring people down in rafts and kayaks," he said. "We're going to have to adjust for certain situations and those unpredictabilities."

The Lawton Constitution

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