TULSA - Hundreds of engineers, emergency operations personnel, rangers, technicians and hydrologists have joined together for an around-the-clock flood fight, here, as rain continues to fall in areas of Oklahoma and Texas.
At least a dozen lakes and rivers in the region are experiencing varying levels of flooding and according to the most recent weather reports, water is expected to continue going up at some of those locations, while receding at others.
"Tulsa District personnel train regularly for this type of situation and are fully prepared to meet the challenges brought on by flooding in the region," said Col. Richard A. Pratt, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District, commander. "In meeting with the members of our team, I can tell you I've been extremely impressed by their overall confidence, hard work and professionalism."
According to Pratt that confidence comes through preparation.
"While no levee or flood protection system will completely eliminate the risk of flooding, countless lives have been preserved and property saved over the years because of the well engineered systems and highly trained professionals we have in place to reduce the risk of flooding and its impact on the region," said Pratt.
The flood control area behind a reservoir is normally kept empty. According to Corps officials, this area is used to catch and control upstream flows of water, which without the dam would cause flooding in downstream areas.
Currently, flood waters at the Lake Eufaula Dam, in Oklahoma, are at 116% of capacity and operating over the flood pool into the surcharge pool. At Lake Texoma, on the border between Oklahoma and Texas, the reservoir's flood water storage capacity is 69% full and climbing.
"Our dams are functioning exactly how they are supposed to during times of high water," said Scott Henderson, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District, chief of water management. "We currently have a team of highly qualified civil engineers and hydrologists monitoring the situation 24/7 and we are continuing to update our hydrology models."
Henderson described the situation as fluid and said decisions to hold or release water within the Tulsa District's extensive system of reservoirs are being made with public safety in mind.
"Flood risk management is the first and most significant benefit our reservoirs provide," added Henderson. "In the Tulsa District alone, nearly $8 billion in flood damages have been prevented by our dams because of the flood flows they allow us to manage in a controlled and well engineered manner."
"Approximately 100 Tulsa District employees, spread out over Oklahoma and Texas, are involved in monitoring and preventing downstream flooding,"" said William Smiley, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District, chief of emergency management. "We are watching the situation closely and stand ready to surge our emergency management requirements should the need arise."
Over the past week, Tulsa District emergency operations personnel have issued more than 25,000 sandbags to state and municipal partners in Oklahoma, where 20,000 sandbags have also been pre-positioned in anticipation of more rain.
According to Smiley, an additional 200,000 sandbags have also been earmarked to support Texas should the need arise.
Earl Groves, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District, operations division chief, stated a dedicated team is tirelessly working to ensure the maximum number of camping facilities and recreation sites remain open during this period of high water.
"We definitely encourage folks to visit our recreation areas this summer and enjoy everything they have to offer," said Groves. "While some of our camp sites and boat ramps are temporarily closed due to high water, the majority remain open, so please contact the recreation area you plan to visit for the most up-to-date status report."
"Of course, anytime you are on or near the water, people need to be aware of their surroundings, as well as the changes that occur due to higher than normal lake levels," added Groves. "It's also important that you take appropriate safety precautions while participating in outdoor recreation."
According to Groves, some of these steps included boaters wearing their life vests at all times, as well as being aware of the weather and avoiding alcohol when operating an all terrain vehicle or watercraft.
As the weather and water levels change in the coming days, officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District, are working closely with their state and interagency partners, stakeholders and the general public to keep as many recreation areas open as possible, while simultaneously protecting property and ensuring the safety of those living, working and recreating in the region.