Why Didn't Tulsa's Sirens Sound During Monday's Flash Flooding?

Tuesday, September 22nd 2009, 6:18 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- City of Tulsa sirens didn't sound during Monday's flash flooding. In places, six inches of rain fell just before rush hour and that left some drivers wading out of their cars.

So why didn't Tulsa warn drivers with storm sirens?

Over the years, the city of Tulsa has added flood capacity. Mingo Creek was at about half its capacity Monday. Now that Tulsa can better handle flooding, the decision was made to not sound the sirens.

"And we do not activate the sirens for street flooding," said Mike McCool, Tulsa Emergency Management. "Because the rule is, don't drive through high water."

The city monitored both rainfall and rising water in streams and creeks. The flooding that happened, according to the city, resulted from rain running towards the storm system and was not the result of overflowing streams.

"It was the sudden downburst on the collection system getting the water off streets and to the storm system that's the main problem," said Charles Hardt, Tulsa Public Works Director.

Having street flooding as the main problem comes out of spending $250 million to stop bigger problems.

Each year, the city spends several million dollars on improving flood control.

"We're doing a lot of repair work to streams, increasing capacities, and that's happening citywide," said Charles Hardt, Tulsa Public Works Director.

At Tulsa's emergency operations center, staff was ready to sound the sirens. Even though the national weather service issued flood warnings, the city waits to see how much rain falls, or how much the creeks are rising. They don't sound the sirens to alert drivers of high water ahead.

9/22/2009  Related Story: Flash Flooding Strands Tulsa Area Motorists

"The siren system is an outdoor warning system only, and if you're driving in your car and the windows are rolled up, you're not going to hear them and that's not what it's designed for anyway," said Mike McCool, Tulsa Emergency Management.

The city wants anyone who had damage from water flowing into their home to report it through the Mayor's Action Center. You can do that by calling 596-2100.