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Sand Springs residents wait, worry while levee integrity is tested

Posted at 5:05 PM, May 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-27 18:54:44-04

SAND SPRINGS, Okla. — Neighbors in Sand Springs are waiting for word on whether they’ll have to evacuate because of growing pressure on the county’s levee system.

Many are considering their evacuation plans. Some have packed while others are waiting.

“It’s scary," Judy Girkin said. "It’s frustrating, not knowing ‘is it going to happen, is it not going to happen?’”

Girkin says she won’t easily be moved from her Sand Springs home, but she says she is taking precautions.

“I’ve got everything packed up and I’m just living out of my satchels, so that way I can grab it and run,’ she said.

She lives in the area near the Arkansas River which officials say is at risk of flooding if Levee A or Levee fails. They say anyone in those neighborhoods should be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.

Some have checked into motels or are staying with friends and family.

But others are staying put.

“Waiting and seeing,” Craig Wallander said. “Some people have left, I’m sticking around ‘til they tell me to get out.”

Wallander says he’s not concerned enough to leave but the flooding is something he’s seen only once before.

“Back in ’86 it was probably just about where I’m standing now,” he said

The concern for officials isn’t the level of the water, it’s the fact it’s been there pushing up against the levees for days.

Water normally is nowhere near the levee, in fact there’s a retention area that normally is dry. Now, that entire area is filled with water almost 3 feet up the levee. With water in contact with the levee for that long, it could begin to saturate the sand underneath, which officials are worried might cause it to give way.

“Last Wednesday, it was still in the channel, and it’s come up here this much in the last week,” Wallander said.

The U.S. Army National Guard has been deployed in Sand Springs and west Tulsa since Thursday, keeping watch on the levees and checking for water seeping through to the other side.

The guard’s plan is to stay on 12-hour shifts until this Thursday.

“The community has been amazing,” Sgt. Jacob Jorgensen said. “Between people driving up asking if we need anything – random people bringing us cases of water and Gatorade, people going to Dollar General for snacks – it’s been a really cool experience actually.”

The soldiers were given their evacuation instructions on Sunday, in the case the levees begin to breach.

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