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.' "