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April 25, 2015, 03:42:56 pm
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Author Topic: Tulsa Memorial Day Flood of 1984. Where were you?  (Read 5184 times)
« on: May 05, 2006, 07:57:00 am »

Since the Memorial Day flood was touched upon in another thread, I thought I'd start a dedicated thread on the subject. I was in that flood! I was visiting a friend on the weekend up in Tulsa (this is when I lived in Southern Oklahoma) and was on I-44 (Skelly Drive? BA Expressway?) heading towards Broken Arrow, my friend's home. I had my guitar in the back of the car because we were going to jam. It wasn't raining when I got to Tulsa (as far as I can recall it was late night/early morning around 1 or 2 am: Yes, I was young and restless), but it soon started pouring buckets. If I recall it rained 11 or 12 inches in only ONE HOUR. Anyway, as I was heading East on BA Expressway the road finally flooded completely and I was trapped in waist deep water along with several other folks. One of Tulsa's finest tried to use his police car to push me out when he too became overwhelmed. He, I, and about 10 or twelve other people made our way to higher ground. There was a radio station there at the time and when we all trudged/swam inside there were about 30 other people already there, waiting it out. It took about four hours for the flood waters to go down enough to where it was somewhat safe to leave. I didn't have anywhere to go because cell phones were practically nonexistent at the time, the phone lines were down if not inundated, and I had no way to contact my friend. Besides, if I recall, he lived in an area that was inaccessible for at least a day or two. During the time I was at the radio station, I made friends with a lady (in fact, we hit it off so well we dated for some time)and she let me spend the night at her house (there are some really good, decent folks in Tulsa). My car had to be towed away the next day and insurance paid for the flood damage (literally totaled the car). My friend's place of work (a place called Automation Techniques), up on 105 East Avenue was totally flooded out, and all of the employees had to pitch in over the next week or two cleaning the place up. All in all it was an experience I'll never forget. Where were you and what was your experience on that night and the following days in 1984?

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« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2013, 10:50:54 am »

My wife and I were young hippies new to town. We were staying at a run down motel on 11th and Garnett this nite. Vivid memories of bodies, red buds food and carsfloating by. Dont know how we made it out alive. MANY stories to share. robertlesko2112@gmail.com. Happy to share, I saw IT ALL.Helicopter picking up body when water went down, cars raging by in the current, people barely made it to house we swam to, some didnt make it. Felt electricity tingling as we swam thru kitchen to steps going up. The incredible noise of the rain, we were all covinced we going to die. A young newlywed couple made it to house wrapped in sheets.Unbelievable, it was the scariest time in my 58 years. The aftermath, first hand veiw, was crazy. That whole area was a nightmare, many stories to share. Feel free to contact me @ the aforementioned address.
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« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2013, 01:34:35 pm »

The phone rang at 3 o'clock in the morning to tell her to get out of bed right away and come downtown to the Emergency Operations Center.

 City dump trucks had already been dispatched to carry other officials through the flooded streets, with the Crosstown Expressway under 3 feet of water.

 "We were getting reports of cars being swept off the highways," remembers Ann Patton, then an aide to Public Works Commissioner J.D. Metcalfe. "Families were stranded on the roofs of their homes."

 The rain began late that Saturday evening and didn't stop for more than 24 hours, finally letting up on the Sunday night before Memorial Day 1984, 25 years ago this weekend.

 Officially, Tulsa measured 9.35 inches of rain. But, unofficially, parts of town saw more than 14 inches.

 At the peak of the storm, Brookside received 2 inches of rain in 15 minutes.

 The flooding killed 14 people, forced 3,500 families out of their homes, damaged 7,000 houses and businesses and cost the city between $150 million and $180 million, depending on the source.

 "It was a freak storm," Patton says. "The problem is, in our part of the country, we're prone to freak storms."

 Sooner or later, she says, "it will happen again."
'Example to the nation'
It was hardly the first time Tulsa flooded. There was the infamous Mother's Day Flood of 1970. Then came the June 8 Flood of '74 and the Memorial Day Flood of '76.

 Mike McCool worked the graveyard shift as a Tulsa police officer.

 "We'd throw our gun belts in the back of the patrol car and wade into it waist-deep to pull people out," he remembers. "It was almost routine."

 But nothing compared to the '84 flood.

 "The citizens got a bellyful and said, 'OK, we're not standing for this any more,' " says McCool, now director of the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency. "You hear a lot about grass-roots movements, but this really was one."

 Public pressure eventually led to a $140 million project that turned 10 miles of Mingo Creek into a man-made channel and included 23 storm-water retention sites, the last one not completed until 1999.

 More controversially, officials also used a combination of local and federal funds to buy out flood-prone properties — eventually moving or bulldozing nearly 300 homes and businesses.

 If, or when, Tulsa sees another storm that dumps 15 inches of rain in 24 hours, it will still cause a flood.

 "Because there's no way any city can deal with that much rain," says Patton, who became one of the most prominent public advocates for the flood-control projects. "But it won't be as bad as if we hadn't done all this work."

 Indeed, Tulsa sets the national standard in flood control, officials say.

 "I still believe that Tulsa epitomizes the type of natural-hazard management that we're trying to foster," James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the 1990s, when most of the flood-control work was done, told the Tulsa World.

 Tulsa, Witt said by e-mail, "provides an example to the nation of what a community can do to protect its residents from becoming disaster victims."
Suburbs fail to keep up
When he says "Tulsa," however, Witt means the city itself, not necessarily the metropolitan area as a whole.

 As development continues to sprawl into the suburbs, flood control hasn't always kept up.

 Downtown Bixby, for example, flooded as recently as 2007. The city finished a major drainage program only last year, but it has already applied for more federal grants to expand the project.

 In Broken Arrow, Brent Watson and his neighbors are engaged in the same kind of grass-roots movement that Tulsa flood victims launched 25 years ago.

 "The difference here is that we haven't had any deaths yet," Watson says. "But I think it's only a matter of time."

 A flood damaged 164 Broken Arrow homes in June 2006. And many of those same homes flooded again in April 2008.

 That same month, Watson and other victims called the first meeting of the Kenosha Corridor Flood Action Committee.

 By the end of the year, the committee had helped rally voters to pass a $3.3 million bond package for storm- water projects.

 "But it's just a drop in the bucket of what we need to do," Watson says. "We're just getting started."

 Broken Arrow will soon begin a year-long hydrology study to make a long-term plan for flood control.

 Meanwhile, Tulsa can't become complacent about flood control, either.

 "People say, 'We fixed it,' but there's no such thing," says Patton, who now leads her own consulting firm. "You can never say, 'OK, now we've done enough.' "


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« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2013, 01:38:02 pm »





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I Conquered The 2013 -2015 Polar Bear Plunge!!

« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2013, 01:18:17 pm »

I was living in Arlington, Texas and working at Ametek back in 1984. I was doing good & sitting pretty.

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