MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Volunteers who want to take part in what is being described as "an ambitious project" are being encouraged to register in advance and help clean debris left scattered along Tenkiller Lake's shoreline after a late-autumn tornado in 2018 and this year's flooding.
Greater Tenkiller Area Association Clean-up Committee and other community organizations are combining resources for a three-day event dubbed Tidy Up Tenkiller. Clean-up activities, which will be launched from three areas, are scheduled from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday through Saturday — gloves, bags and safety gear will be provided, and volunteers will be treated to a cookout each day.
Tidy Up Tenkiller was spawned by the desire to clean up Styrofoam and other debris strewn across the landscape and lake by a Nov. 30 tornado with wind speeds ranging from 111 mph to 135 mph. The tornado, according to the National Weather Service in Tulsa, left a path of destruction 1,100 yards wide along the east shores of Tenkiller that tracked 47 miles from Blackgum into Delaware County.
The EF-2 tornado, according to NWS statistics, destroyed boat docks and boats, outbuildings and airport hangars, substantially damaged a number of houses at the lake, and injured five people. Storm debris and other "unsightly trash" has been "tiding up" along the shoreline due to high lake levels that have been slow to recede due to downstream flooding along the Arkansas River, along access roads to campgrounds and marinas, and in the water.
Save the Illinois River President Denise Deason-Toyne said the Tahlequah-based citizens coalition that was formed to protect and preserve the scenic river and the lake it feeds will co-sponsor the event. She said taking part in the project promotes STIR's mission.
"This will be an opportunity for STIR members to get out and get involved in a hands-on project," Deason-Toyne said. "We hope this will create some enthusiasm for STIR and its mission to protect and preserve this natural resource — our river and lake."
Ed Brocksmith, a founding member of STIR, said the need for volunteers — those who have boats and those who don't — is tremendous. He said similar events may be planned next year and beyond because the need "is just so obvious."
Those who want to join the effort are encouraged to register in advance, which may be done online at www.laketenkiller.com. Those who would like more information may call Don Nowlin at (918) 457-4403 or visit the Greater Tenkiller Area Association's Facebook page.
If you go
WHO: Greater Tenkiller Area Association and other community organizations.
WHAT: Tidy Up Tenkiller.
WHEN: From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
WHERE: Tenkiller Lake.