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Tulsa Emergency Managers Plan For Potential Flooding

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Tulsa's emergency managers met to go make plans for how to deal with flooding, should it ever happen again. Tulsa's emergency managers met to go make plans for how to deal with flooding, should it ever happen again.
It's hard to imagine that much water coming out of Keystone Dam or the Arkansas River being full to overflowing, but it happened in 1986. It's hard to imagine that much water coming out of Keystone Dam or the Arkansas River being full to overflowing, but it happened in 1986.
Col. Mike Teague, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Col. Mike Teague, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

It's been more than 25 years since we've dealt with flooding along the Arkansas River, but with more and more river development, area agencies want to be prepared, should it happen again.

The levees in West Tulsa provide some protection against the potential flood water of the Arkansas River. They were built in the 1940s, but Tulsa has had floods since, and will again.

It's hard to imagine that much water coming out of Keystone Dam or the Arkansas River being full to overflowing, but it happened in 1986. High water from the river flooded parts of Sand Springs and west Tulsa and everything downstream.

That's why Tulsa's emergency managers are meeting now.

"It's the idea of, if you plan now and think of specific answers to specific questions now, then when it happens and there's a flood or drought or a tornado like hit Joplin, whatever the crisis is going to be, now you know how to respond to it and that's what this is," said Col. Mike Teague, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps of Engineers knows exactly how much water it takes to cause flooding and where the flooding would be. They've got aerial pictures that show where it went in 1986, and that's exactly where it would go again.

The levees and the lake haven't changed, but communities like Jenks have more valuable property at risk along the river.

"But then, downstream of there, there's been a lot of development. The Riverwalk Crossing and Brookside have been developed more, and those are areas that need to know there are flooding issues, even though it's been a long time since we've had a major event like that," said Corps of Engineers economist Chris Baker.

A flood like 1986 doesn't happen often, but it could happen soon, and that's the lesson the Army Corps wants the communities to learn.

They have a plan for flooding along the Arkansas, but they can't go it alone.

"You have to plan for it and bring everybody together and plan for it, because if the Corps was doing this in a vacuum, if the Corps has a great plan you can't execute it. Because when you hit the disaster, everybody is involved," Teague said.

The levees are maintained, but were last overhauled 20 years ago, so they're due for updates. That's expensive and, for now, the Corps says there's no money in the pipeline for any significant work.

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