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Flash flood hits Ellicottville Rodeo on July 4th

Organizers cleanup and say the rodeo will continue as scheduled through the weekend
Posted at 5:53 PM, Jul 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-06 12:38:00-04

ELLICOTTVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — July 4th brought a different type of fireworks to Ellicottville this year as a powerful thunderstorm caused flash floods.

2,000 people were preparing for the start of the Ellicottville Championship Rodeo, the largest in this part of the country, when fast-rising water caused anxious moments just before 7 p.m. July 4th as rushing water swept through a parking area with hundreds of vehicles.

"It washed away corral cables and logs. It was insane," said Tanya Okerlund, from Pennsylvania, who was trying to flee the storm with her husband and horses.

"We had to pull forward because the water was coming up over the bumper of our horse trailer," said Okerlund, who added that her friend had to rescue a small dog that was carried away by the flash flood.

John Kent and his wife have hosted the rodeo on their farm for 31-years.

He told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly that he never remembers a storm where it rained so hard and so much.

Close to 500 cowboys from across the country come to the rodeo competition - which also includes many other acts like trick riders and rodeo clowns.

As quickly as the water rose up, it went down.

Tanya Okerlund and others said the Kent family sprung into action using heavy equipment to prevent floating debris from trapping vehicles in the flooded parking area.

No injuries were reported with only a couple small cars needing assistance.

The Thursday night rodeo performance was delayed but was able to continue once the threat of lightning passed, thanks in part to the rodeo's location that drains well, explained Kent.

"The phones are ringing off the hook from people wanting to know the status of the rodeo," said John Kent

"The status is the rodeo is going on and we are not stopping. We still have three more performances over three days," added Kent.

More information about the Ellicottville Rodeo can be found here along with schedules.

Reporter Ed Reilly spent the day at the Ellicottville Rodeo talking with performers from out-of-state who were amazed by the intensity of the rainfall.