Aerial Flooding

The Keystone dam release water from Keystone lake to the Arkansas River on Friday, May 24, 2019. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World

In recent days, we’ve considered several answers to the devastation caused by last month’s flooding along the Arkansas River, but the answers we keep coming back to are that the community needs to move people out of the danger area and prevent others from moving there.

In the emotional moments immediately after the flood, we wanted to take issue with how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed Lake Keystone before and during the flood.

But that skepticism doesn’t seem to be confirmed by data. Had the lake’s levels been any reasonable amount lower prior to the storm, we aren’t convinced it would have done much good.

Had the Corps not made controlled releases of enormous amounts of water during the storm, the potential for a much greater, uncontrolled inundation could have resulted.

We wish all the people whose homes were destroyed by the floods had been insured and that they had gotten better warning of what was coming.

The benefits of flood insurance are obvious, and we’re disturbed to hear stories of homeowners living that close to the river being told they didn’t need it. Better warning would have allowed homeowners to get movable property to higher ground and perhaps prepare their homes better; but it seems likely that for most of them, the loss would still have been monumental.

The answers we keep coming back to are: Using land-use regulations to prevent home construction in areas that are going to flood and finding a way to move those who live there if they want to go.

The facts of nature are clear. It’s going to rain in May in Oklahoma. Sometimes it will rain a lot. Five of the six major flood events in the Tulsa area in the past 50 years have come in May.

We can’t control nature, but we can see its patterns and take prudent steps to protect human life and property.

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