The Flooding In Tulsa Is Nearly Historic
You're looking at the River Spirit Casino Resort along the banks of the Arkansas River in midtown Tulsa. Normally, the river is a beautiful sight to behold as you get ready to blow your social security check in the casino below, but given the shear amount of rain Northern OK and Kansas has seen this week, it looks more like Willy Wonka's chocolate river.
With a 'Threat Level: Midnight' clearance level, and explicit permission from officials, Nick Goodwin took flight around this Oklahoma oasis to survey and catalog what might turn into catastrophic damage. Earlier this week, as more rain fell, and the various reservoirs further upstream reached maximum capacity, River Spirit was forced to usher guests and gamblers out in the name of safety, and while there is an end in sight, it's a ways off and hinges completely on the weather.
The Arkansas River has a long storied history full of tall tales and interesting factoids. For instance, did you know that the mighty Arkansas is the longest river tributary to feed the Mississippi? It wanders almost 1500 miles from Colorado through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Even more amazing is this... While it's flooding lower Kansas, Oklahoma, and pretty soon Arkansas, it's mostly bone dry further North. Has been for decades. That's not to say it doesn't flow water once in a while, but droughts on the plains suck up as much of that water as possible.
You'll probably hear or read about flood references to the '86 Tulsa flood or even the '98 Ark City Kansas flood. But the real flowing carnage happened throughout the 70's when the river flooded one area to the next five years in a row.
Here's another fun fact. While Oklahoma has a ton of huge, beautiful lakes, none of them are natural. None of them existed before we poured those huge concrete and riprap barriers. Now before you hop on Wikipedia to fact check that, let me explain. Wikipedia is going to tell you that there are sixty-two natural oxbow lakes in the state of Oklahoma. What you probably don't know, because I didn't, an oxbow lake is created when a changing river cuts off its own supply. Also, before you reference the 'playa' lake, that just means dry lake bed like the great salt plains up in Jet. Don't be a nerd. There are no natural lakes in Oklahoma.
Keystone Lake, the big reservoir upstream from Tulsa is currently flowing a massive amount of water, 270,000 cubic feet per second. That's a ton of water. It has to because there are some 320,000 cfs flowing into the Keystone reservoir from further North. Those couple of Northern dams are also reaching capacity. so they're also forced to flow as much water as possible to keep the levees from saturating and breaking. While the flooding is effecting a lot of people both North and South of Tulsa along the Arkansas River, the carnage would be far greater if we didn't cut off the finger to save the arm.