South Tulsa, Jenks, Bixby Flooding to Worsen as Keystone Dam Releases Increase Again

May 22, 2019

Discharges from Keystone Dam were approaching 165,000 cubic feet per second early Wednesday. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is increasing the outflow to 215,000 cfs by Wednesday afternoon.
Credit Mayor G.T. Bynum

4 p.m. — Flood sirens along the Arkansas River in Jenks will sound every 30 minutes until 10 p.m. Sirens are to make the public — especially those without social media or other ways to get information — aware flooding is happening near the river and to take caution and be aware.

Sirens do not meant residents need to evacuate their homes. Jenks officials are still waiting on updated projections based on new release numbers from Keystone Dam.

2:30 p.m. — With flooding in Tulsa County and the city under a state of emergency, Jenks Public Schools officials made Wednesday the district's last day of school. The district will be closed Thursday and Friday.

1 p.m. — River Spirt Casino Resort is closing until further notice as of 2 p.m. because of the anticipated rise in the Arkansas River as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increases water releases from Keystone Dam.

Current hotel guests are being relocated to other properties, while the hotel is contacting those with reservations through the weekend to reschedule.

11 a.m. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is again ramping up Keystone Dam releases, which will hit 215,000 cubic feet per second by 2 p.m. Wednesday.

The Corps upped the outflow to 160,000 cfs Tuesday evening, but around 250,000 cfs of water are flowing into the lake from heavy rainfall Monday and Tuesday.

Flooding along the Arkansas River in south Tulsa, Jenks and Bixby will increase accordingly, and Gov. Kevin Stitt said the situation could get worse.

"There’s some more rain in the forecast for northern Oklahoma, the Tulsa area. So, as Keystone gets more and more inflow, that’s going to determine how much water they have to let out into the Arkansas River," Stitt said.

The National Weather Service now expects the Arkansas River to reach 21 feet and remain there into next week.

"Now, we had a flood back in 1984 where they were releasing over 300,000 cfs. I was 7 back then, so I don’t have a lot of recollection of it, but in my time in public office, the rates that we’ll be seeing come out of Keystone are greater than anything the city has dealt with in over a quarter century," said Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum.

Stitt and Bynum surveyed flooding and storm damage early Wednesday on an Oklahoma Air National Guard helicopter. Stitt and Bynum said Tulsa County levees are holding and Corps flood models are proving to be accurate.

Bynum said some River Parks are flooded, but they are acting as intended: buffers between neighborhoods and businesses.

"I couldn’t help but look out of the helicopter today at our neighbors just north of us in Skiatook and Avant, and you see highways underwater and homes surrounded by water and cars in the middle of water," Bynum said. "I don’t think we face anything like that in Tulsa with this kind of release, but it’s a reminder that flood waters are unpredictable and it’s up to each of us to be cognizant of what’s going on around us."

Officials are now encouraging people to stay aware of potential evacuation recommendations and orders. Bixby is recommending evacuations for neighborhoods, homes and structures in flood plain areas. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a portal where you can check an address to see whether it's in a flood plain.

Area residents can call 211 to report water in their homes. Officials are encouraging residents and businesses to take flood precautions by packing a bag with medications and clothing, moving valuables to higher spots, documenting possessions for insurance purposes, and preparing to take pets with you or arranging an alternative place for them to stay.