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Taking away lessons from 2019's spring flooding

Posted at 5:27 PM, Oct 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-15 19:12:39-04

TULSA — It's been almost five months since record flooding devastated areas in Tulsa and Muskogee counties. Now, the people who made the tough decisions during the floods are trying to prevent them from happening again.

The levees in west Tulsa County protecting 10,000 people were pushed to the limit over weeks of flooding. District 2 County Commissioner Karen Keith says just because it has never happened before, does not mean it will not happen again.

"They're all at risk again," said Keith about the people protected by the levees. "This could happen again."

Engineers, emergency managers, and officials exchanged information as the Society of American Military Engineers called them all together. The group talked about how they worked to avoid flooding as long as possible in May, and the issues they ran into that need to be fixed.

"It's shocking when you hear they had thousands of boils on the levee," Keith said.

Keith says the Army National Guard sandbagging weak points and addressing several spots along the levee saved it from a catastrophic situation. In response to the floods, Keith says the Town and Country neighborhood needs to be re-mapped in the 100-year floodplain.

She also introduced changing state laws to create hazard mitigation and buyout funds. That would give counties emergency money, and the ability to buy people's homes if they're effected.

Lastly, she addressed the need to change how officials and the Army Corps of Engineers alert neighbors in areas like Town and Country to give them enough time to evacuate.

In Muskogee County, nearly 500 families lost their homes. District 1 Commissioner Ken Doke proposed removing neighbors from flood-prone areas, and/or raising the minimum elevation for homes still in flood-prone areas.

"When they started talking about this being a one in 1,000 chance of having this level of flood here, then I think what you have to do is is realize there are new threats we didn't know existed," Doke said.

Doke says flooding affected industries in the county so much, unemployment rose 2%. In response, he suggested applying for a federal grant to build a levee system around the Muskogee industrial area to keep it safe from any future flood.

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