Catastrophic Flooding Risk Remains Until Levee System Fixed, Tulsa County Leaders Say


Tuesday, October 15th 2019, 5:46 pm
By: Amy Kauffman


Many families are still working to rebuild their homes five months after severe flooding in Green Country.

Tuesday the National Weather Service, Army Corps of Engineers and County leaders met to evaluate their response during the floods and what could be changed moving forward.

"They're all at risk again, this could happen again,” said Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith.

The National Weather Service says Oklahoma and Kansas experienced massive amounts of rainfall between April 29th and the beginning of June, and a lot of that water poured into the Arkansas River Watershed.

The Army Corps of Engineers says that water didn’t have anywhere to go, but downstream.

They say the reservoir completely cycled six times during the month of May, showing just how much water came through Keystone Dam.

This also added a lot of pressure to Tulsa's aging Levee System, forcing the National Guard to be on standby.

"What we would've experienced here if the levee breached would've been catastrophic,” said Keith.

Tulsa County and the Corps went through several options, including buying out some of the houses behind the levees, but ultimately decided rebuilding the current system would be best.

The Corps was already in the process of doing a levee feasibility study to evaluate the structure of the levee system, but the spring flooding speeded up the process.

Related Story: Corps Releases Draft Of Tulsa County Levee Feasibility Study After Spring Floods 

"We've got to fix it. It's got to be a more resilient and viable levee so we are working on it full speed ahead,” said Keith.

Muskogee County Commissioner Ken Doke says they're thankful no one died during the flooding, despite miles of floodwater cutting off towns and leaving hundreds homeless.

Doke says the community has since banded together, and the county applied for a federal grant to build a levee.

They would like the levee to go on the Northeast side to protect some of the businesses there that suffered significant loss.

Doke says unemployment is up 2% there right now.

“The economic impact we had, if we had been better equipped we maybe wouldn't have had that type of impact,” said Commissioner Ken Doke.

As many continue working to rebuild.

"We have a lot of people who lost everything that the $34,900 check they got from FEMA will never take them back to pre-flood,” said Doke.

October 15th is the last day to give feedback on the levee repairs that would be implemented here in Tulsa County.