Congress Works To Help Find Solutions To Improve Tulsa Levees

Monday, October 3rd 2016, 8:01 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

Congress is working on two bills designed to help find solutions to improve levees in Tulsa.

Their work comes as Tulsa marks 30 years since the devastating 1986 floods.

Experts said they are more prepared for flooding now than they were decades ago.

9/21/2016 Related Story: Lessons Of '86: What Green Country Can Do To Prepare For Next Major Flood

The Army Corps of Engineers said if it built a levee today, it would not be done the same way it was in the 1940s.

Other advancements in technology have changed the way the National Weather Service deals with flooding, too. 

The 1986 floodwaters filled streets and damaged thousands of properties, leaving behind more than $60 million in damage throughout Tulsa County. 

And even though it happened 30 years ago, National Weather Service Meteorologist Steve Piltz said the story isn't over. 

"We will have more challenges on the Arkansas river at some point," Piltz said. 

A high water mark sign now sits at Cousins Park, giving perspective on how high the water stood on October 5th, 1986. 

"If you lose track of history, then you're destined to repeat some of your mistakes. always being aware of what can happen will help you prepare for what's going to happen," Piltz said. 

And he says when another major flooding event happens, the National Weather Service will now be better prepared, in part thanks to advancements in technology. 

Remember, the Internet wasn't widely used in 1986. 

"We can just crunch so many numbers now that we couldn't crunch before. and so now things that used to be done really with kind of a slide rule and graph paper, now it can be done on computers in a matter of seconds," Piltz said. 

Army Corps of Engineers Col. Christopher Hussin said stream gauges have given the Army Corps of Engineers real-time information on how much water is moving toward its reservoirs and he said the Corps is ready for any future rain.  

"We're more than adequately prepared to deal with a flood event within the confines of the design of our structures," Hussin said.  

Once filled with floodwater, Tulsans can also expect Cousins Park to be transformed from a field of grass into a functioning park within the next few years. 

The city said nearly $2 million will be used to build a new trail, a one-room school house, a pioneer house and barn, and an observation deck. 

Native trees, wildflowers and grass will also be added. 

The projects will be funded by a 2013 bond issue.