News Headlines - July 18

Heavy rains hamper travel in Texoma on Thursday

The rain has finally subsided and in most of Texoma, rainfall averaged about a inch, which was great news for farmers and those hoping for a green lawn this summer.

But in some parts of Texoma, the rainfall got excessive and quick.

Sanger, Texas received several inches of rain in a very short time frame, shutting down I-35 between Gainsville and Denton for a few hours yesterday. Cook County officials said more than 20 motorists got stuck in the water, and first responders performed 10 high-water rescues.

Rain estimates near Sanger were reported by the National Weather Service between 8 and 9 inches of rain in the past 24 hours.

Flooding was kept fairly localized and most was just flash flooding. However, as creeks, ponds and lakes begin to swell from runoff, high water could still be a concern for some residents.

Atoka educator nominated for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

An Atoka teacher has been named one of 12 finalists for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

LeAnn Wyrick, a social studies teacher at McCall Middle School was voted by her peers to be the school’s teacher of the Year, then voted Atoka Public School’s Teacher of the Year.

She now goes up against 11 other teachers from across the state.

Wyrick told news outlets she was honored by the acknowledgement, but said she still has a responsibility as a teacher and as a role model.

Students say Wyrick is  good teacher and then enjoy learning from her and having fun in the classroom with her.

The Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will be announced in September at the State Fair.

Oklahoma Capitol renovation project previewed

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — State officials previewed a $120 million renovation project for Oklahoma's aging Capitol building, with state Historical Society executive director Bob Blackburn holding the pick-ax Thursday that was used to break ground almost a century ago.

"The pick ax has come home," Blackburn said amid a display of photographs and artifacts from the Capitol's groundbreaking ceremony on July 20, 1914. Some photos showed Oklahoma's second governor, Lee Cruce, driving the tool into the ground.

After decades of deferred maintenance, needed repairs are expected to begin this year thanks to legislation signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin authorizing a $120 million bond issue.

"It is the seat of government. It is the people's house," Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger said. "We are finally able to approach the repairs. We're not going to shortchange the citizens of this state."

The 452,000-square-foot Capitol was constructed of reinforced concrete between 1914 and 1917 for just $1.5 million. But a century later, the building's facade is crumbling. Barricades have cordoned off the south side of the structure since 2011 to prevent visitors from climbing the steps of the south portico because chunks of mortar and pieces of limestone are falling.

Visitors also must walk beneath scaffolding topped with plywood to reach an entranceway on the building's southeast corner to avoid the falling debris. In May, a four-pound chunk of concrete crashed through an employee's office in the basement, an area that has since been evacuated.

"There's 100-year-old wiring in this building. There are cast iron pipes you can stick your finger through," Capitol architect Duane Mass said. "One hundred years later we start on another process."

Doerflinger said the renovation project is expected to last between four and six years. Work on the building's exterior is expected to begin at the end of this year, with interior work expected at the end of 2015.

Mass said officials overseeing the project will soon prepare the necessary documents to create teams of specialists that will submit proposals for performing the renovation work.

"On the interior there will be a long process of discovery," Mass said.

Legislation authorizing the bond issue will not go into effect until Aug. 22, 90 days after the Legislature adjourned. But authorities are planning to tap a construction fund that contains about $700,000 to pay for an investigation of the building's exterior to determine what repairs are immediately needed to the crumbling facade. Bond money will later be used to replenish the fund.

Initial plans call for the building to remain open during the lengthy renovation project.

"We cannot shut this building down," Mass said. "It has to be a modern, functioning office building."

Kent Richards