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Plains States Prepare for Heavy Rainfall, Flash Flooding

More two dozen people were displaced by flood waters in western Oklahoma Saturday as the Plains and Midwest braced for downpours that threatened flash flooding.
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A state of emergency was in effect for 44 Oklahoma counties on Saturday night as the Plains and Midwest braced for downpours that could cause flash flooding in rain-weary areas over Memorial Day weekend.

The entire state was under flash flood watches and warnings, as were parts of Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas Kansas and Texas, according to the National Weather Service. Evacuation orders were issued in Elk City, Oklahoma, and Wichita Falls, Texas, amid warnings about potentially historic flooding.

Six inches of rain caused flash flooding in Elk City, about 100 miles west of Oklahoma City, according to Elk City Emergency Management. No injuries were reported, but bridges were washed out, and officials expected reports of home damage. Elk City EMS said as many as 30 people were displaced.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation reported that at least 15 highways were closed across the state due to high water from the recent flooding. It also caused damage to a gas station and mall in Oklahoma City.

A music festival in Oklahoma was delayed and later canceled because of the inclement weather. Officials with the Rocklahoma festival in Pryor, about 50 miles west of Tulsa, urged attendees around 9 p.m. to head to their cars or the camping area to wait out the incoming weather. Organizers later announced the rest of the night's lineup, including a performance by Linkin Park, was canceled.

The University of Texas at Austin canceled their its Saturday night commencement ceremony when lightning kept staff from setting up, the school said. "We made every effort to stage the 2015 commencement as planned. We are very disappointed that we cannot proceed under this evening’s severe weather conditions," said the university’s president, Bill Powers.

Officials in Wichita Falls, in northern Texas, issued an evacuation order for residents living within a half mile on either side of the Wichita River, as they worried the river could crest more than once before Wednesday. City officials said the river was expected to rise one to three feet higher than when it did in 2007, when 170 homes were flooded.

May 2015 became the wettest month on record in Wichita Falls, with 13.77 inches of rainfall as of Friday night, according to the NWS. Rainfall records for the city date back to 1897.

The National Weather Service is calling this an "historic" flood event, said Wichita Falls spokesman Barry Levy.

Wichita Falls Mayor Glenn Barham said during a news conference Saturday that he would be "very concerned" if he lived in a flood prone area.



— Elisha Fieldstadt

The Associated Press contributed to this report.