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CORRECTION: An earlier story incorrectly stated that the city’s bridges were at risk of being overcome by floodwater. This is not the case based on current projections.
By: Nate Morris, senior editor
TULSA, OK – Water continues to inundate the area as days of torrential rain have filled Keystone Lake to the brim. As of noon, official lake levels show the water sitting at nearly 31 feet above normal and just six inches under the top of the flood pool.
Overnight and throughout the morning, the city increased the amount of water flowing from the dam from 160,000 cubic feet/second (cfs) to now 233,000 cfs. However, in spite of this increase in water release, lake levels continue to rise as 280,000 cubic feet of water (or nearly 2.1 million gallons) drain into the lake every second.
Beginning at 3PM, the City of Tulsa will sound flood sirens every 30 minutes until 9pm.
WATCH: The Arkansas River rushes under the 21st Street Bridge in Tulsa
As a result, the city released plans this morning showing the flood map for a planned release of water at a rate of 250,000 cfs (beginning this afternoon and continuing for at least four days) and a potential release of 305,000 cfs. According to the City of Tulsa and the Army Corps of Engineers, that 250,000 cfs release will cause water to potentially cover parts of the west bank, Riverside Drive and portions of neighborhood streets along the east bank.
A release of 305,000 cfs (described as a ‘worst case scenario’) would rival the damage of the historic 1986 flood event. Additional portions of Riverside Drive would be underwater, along with businesses along the river and homes along the east bank of the river. Most flooding would be localized to areas along the river between S. 36th and S. 39th streets, along S. 67th and 68th Streets, between S. 81st and 91st Streets and S. 101st street with extensive flooding possible for areas south of S. 115th Street.
On the west bank of the Arkansas, flooding from a release of 305,000 cfs would be most likely to affect homes and businesses near the river just north of I-44 and along the Riverwalk in Jenks.
Much of Bixby is also likely to experience extensive flooding in the coming days.
These releases are necessary to relieve pressure on the dam and prevent it’s failure, which would result in a potentially catastrophic flooding event.
Water has already covered parts of river parks and River Spirit Casino to the South along with roads and parks (notably O’Brien Park) to the North as Bird Creek continues to rise far past its banks.
Additional chances of rain remain in the forecast over the coming days as flooding forces evacuations along the river and throughout Green Country.
Officials urge residents living within the 100 year floodplain to take appropriate precautions and have a “go-kit” ready in case it becomes necessary to leave for higher ground. Likewise, officials continue to urge individuals to not walk or drive across flooded paths or roadways. Swift-moving water, unseen hazards under the water’s surface and the risk of additional sinkholes make crossing such areas extremely dangerous.
You can read the city’s latest official emergency statement from 10:30AM Thursday here. The Black Wall Street Times will update you as this story continues to unfold.