TFD Monitors Changing River Channel At Great Raft Race

Monday, September 2nd 2019, 5:02 pm
By: Amy Avery

A crowd gathered at River West Festival Park to cheer on some of the final rafts coming in from the Great Raft Race.

The Tulsa Fire Department took extra precautions for this year's event because of the flooding.

Race organizers say the flow this year is a little bit faster than normal, but Tulsa Fire Crews were lined up out on the water today just to help crews adapt to the changing river channel.

About 100 different teams launched their rafts from the starting line early Monday morning for this Labor Day tradition.

“Last year we destroyed it, so we were trying to keep up with it this year,” said Principal Director of Civil Engineers at KKT Architects, Nicole Watts.

Watts, says this year they decided to go bigger and better, Mad Max Style with a 7-Foot Paddle Wheel, and it paid off for them.

KKT finished the course in one hour and 28 minutes, winning the race.

"Every Sunday, we get together we build, we design, we redesign, we rebuild, and it’s a great time,” said Watts.

Several groups, like KKT Architects, have been working for months on their different rafts.

Many organizations, like the Tulsa Fire Department, have also been working hard to make sure the race goes smoothly, especially after this year's devastating flooding.

Tulsa Fire Department sent boats out on the water yesterday -- just to make sure the course was okay before today's race.

"We were able to get out and look at any of the issues if the sand bars had shifted if there was debris that was a concern to us,” said Tulsa Fire Captain Chad Miller.

They say sand bars in the river have shifted a little bit from the flooding this spring, so they wanted to make sure crews were in the right spots in case teams got stuck somewhere and they needed to help them out.

They say event organizers also got out on the water to have a second set of eyes in addition to the fire department, but overall the water, looked great for today's race!

"Because of the way the water flowed during the flood, it moved our sand bars around a little bit, but most of the debris and everything was not anything that would be uncommon from other years,” said Miller.

Tulsa and Sand Springs Fire Departments work together to make sure they have enough boats on the water, but this year some of those crews were called to Florida to help with storm preparations for Hurricane Dorian.

"We moved some pieces around and shifted some resources here and that allows our crews that are in Florida now able to go there and do those things and still provide services to citizens that they expect and deserve,” said Miller.

Even though having a bunch of engineers and architects on your team may put you at a slight advantage, the team says seeing all the different rafts and interacting with other teams on race day makes all the hard work even more worth it.

"Most people don’t get to see this part of Tulsa, like the downtown skyline, from this viewpoint, so for everyone to be part of it, it’s fun, it’s awesome," said Watts.

Tulsa Fire Department says one raft did over turn and one woman hit her head and had to go to the hospital — but she is expected to be okay. They say 8 other people were treated for heat related injuries.


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