On Memorial Day weekend 1984 the area surrounding 65th West Avenue and Charles Page Boulevard was completely submerged in the worst flood Tulsa has ever seen. The water level from that event is painted onto the B Levee dike as a sobering reminder of the devastation that ultimately left 14 people dead in Tulsa.
Fast forward 35 years and once again Oklahoma is facing a statewide flood of historic nature. As of midnight Friday, the Keystone Dam is releasing 251,901 cubic feet of water per second. The dam has been releasing over 200,000 for 36 hours now, but during that time the lake rose two feet due to inflow exceeding 300,000. The flood control pool is at 104.92% capacity.
Not only is the ever-rising Arkansas River threatening the south side of Levee A, but a flooded Harlow Creek is steadily rising on the north side of Levee B. Page Boulevard runs right between the two, and the large concrete dikes on either side are springing leaks. The runoff from these leaks has drawn concern from local residents, but it’s of no concern to Levee officials.
According to Tulsa County Levee Commissioner Todd Kilpatrick, the leaks are perfectly normal. The dikes aren’t solid, they’re made of several concrete slabs joined together. Currently, the water is only coming out of the joints due to hydrostatic pressure. The same sight has been observed at the Keystone Dam.
Although he has spent years lobbying for increased funding and a new modernized levee system, he maintains that the current World War 2-era system is doing its job. The biggest danger to the sand-based levees isn’t the amount of water behind them, but the amount of time they’re inundated, allowing the earth to soak. and potentially liquefy.
Though the Tulsa/Sand Springs border is still safe for now, things are gradually worsening back to the west.
Case Community Park is completely flooded. Softball, soccer, and baseball fields are all submerged, as is the BMX track, the disc golf course, playgrounds, and the Rotary Super Splash Pad. As of 8:00 p.m. Thursday, water was nearly to the roof of the old soccer concession stands.
Sand Springs Parks Director Jeff Edwards says the Parks staff worked nonstop to remove as much at-risk park equipment as possible before the rising water finally brought their efforts to a stop. He believes they saved as much as $200,000 worth of picnic tables and other equipment.
The park received a $6 million remodel less than three years ago, but Edwards says the park facilities and equipment are insured. Between insurance and potential FEMA funding, finances shouldn’t be a problem for rebuilding most of the park. However, it’ll take extensive man-hours to clear debris and make repairs. All of the utilities will have to be inspected, the artificial turf in all of the playgrounds will have to be replaced, and its unclear how the waters will affect the BMX track’s berms.
On the bright side, all of the new playground equipment is expected to survive the waters without damage, as is the new amphitheater and the art pieces around the Great Lawn.
The Sand Springs Animal Shelter was evacuated Thursday afternoon as flood waters began approaching the building. The animals are being temporarily housed at the Humane Society of Tulsa. Animal Welfare workers will still be available to help with rescues.
Highway 51 is closed for the foreseeable future from Riverview RV Park west to 137th West Avenue. All four lanes are submerged due to overflow from Anderson Creek. Anderson Creek has also flooded the Meadow Valley subdivision all the way up to 26th Street, as well as the Sand Springs Sand and Gravel Company and Double H Sales.
The Tulsa Boys Home has evacuated all of their students. Privately placed boys have been picked up by their guardians, while wards of the State have been placed in temporary foster care.
The Riverside West and Town & Country subdivisions have flooded all the way up to 19th Street. At least seven blocks are under four feet of water or higher.
The White Water Recreation Area on the Southeast side of the dam has been completely flooded and closed off. Anyone wanting to view the dam will have to park on the north side of the river near Bush Creek Park.
As of 7:00 p.m. the beachfront at Candlestick Beach was flooded and beginning to cover parts of 14th Street. Voluntary evacuation is heavily encouraged for residents of the subdivision.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol has rescue boats staged at various points along the river. The Tulsa County Sheriffs Department is assisting with evacuation at Candlestick Beach and Town & Country, while the Sand Springs Police and Sand Springs/Sapulpa Joint Fire Department are occupying Highway 51 outside of Meadow Valley.