Tulsa is located in one of the most scenic natural areas of Oklahoma. Unfortunately, many locations within the city suffer repeated flood damages when torrential storms strike. Some of these areas are not in a designated floodplain.
In the 1970s and 1980s Tulsa County had the most federal disaster declarations in the nation. In 1984, a flash flood caused $180 million in damages and 14 deaths.
Since that time, we have made tremendous progress. Dozens of flood projects have been completed, and more are planned and under way. Tulsa has established an award-winning, comprehensive flood program that is cited as a national model. Overall, the risk of flooding has been substantially reduced - but not eliminated. Because of our climate and location, Tulsa can never be considered 100 percent floodsafe. Inevitably, sooner or later, Tulsa will flood again, and spring is our most vulnerable time.
The Stormwater Drainage Advisory Board, a citizen board appointed by the Mayor, conducts meetings throughout the city to hear citizens' ideas on drainage problems. Public Works provides the Board and interested citizens with updates on planned or proposed projects at each meeting.
Several of Tulsa's creeks and rivers periodically have flash floods. The flash floods usually have high velocities and are extremely dangerous. Flood damages have occurred at various times along the Arkansas River and numerous creeks, including Valley View, Flat Rock, Dirty Butter, Bird, Coal, Mingo, Haikey, Fry, Vensel, Fred, Joe, Hager, Nickel, Mooser, Cherry-Red Fork, Perryman, Crow, Elm, Park View, Oak, Harlow and Bigheart.
Flood insurance is available for all properties in Tulsa
Most homeowners' policies do not cover flood losses. You can protect your home and contents through the National Flood Insurance Program.
You should obtain coverage for structure and contents. There can be more damage to the contents than the structure. Renters can buy contents coverage even if the owner does not insure the structure.
There is a 30-day waiting period before the policy becomes effective.
Flood insurance is required by law in order to obtain federally secured financing to buy, build, or renovate a structure located in a flood hazard area. This financing includes federal grants, FHA and VA loans, and most conventional mortgage loans.
To find out more about flood insurance, contact any licensed property/casualty agent or broker - the same person who sells your home and auto policies. All agencies charge the same premiums.
You may be denied federal assistance after a disaster if you don't have flood insurance.
Find out more about flood insurance here: http://www.cityoftulsa.org/city-services/flood-control/flood-insurance.aspx
Tulsa's natural floodplains
Many local floodplains have been preserved for recreational activities, and as wetland habitat for wildlife, but they can still be treacherous during heavy rainfall. Avoid entering these areas when flooding is occurring.
A beautiful natural area, "Red Bud Valley," has been preserved, and is open to the public. Also, several drainage improvements in the Mingo Creek area include planting of special water plants and grasses to improve their natural functions of wildlife habitat and filtering nutrients and impurities from water.
You can protect your property
Floodproofing buildings can help reduce the potential for flood damages to structures and their contents. A building permit may be required for this type of work. If your property is located where you can safely implement floodproofing, it could pay to investigate your options. Several informative brochures may be checked out at your library and copies can be obtained free from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
You may consider raising your house above flood levels, or you may want to keep water away by regrading your lot or building a small floodwall or earthen dam. Also, ask your plumber about a valve to prevent sewer back-up. These measures are often called retrofitting. Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency waterproofing. And remember that drainage ditches perform much better when kept clear of brush and debris.
City staff is available to discuss specific details with you during normal business hours - call the Mayor's Action Center at 596-2100 for assistance.
Permits are required before you build
A floodplain watershed development permit must be obtained from the City of Tulsa before commencing construction, landfill, or excavation in the floodplain. Any activity outside the floodplain but within a natural or man-made watercourse also requires a permit.
For a free flood-zone determination, contact the Mayor's Action Center at 596-2100 with the correct address or legal description of the property. A written determination will be mailed to you. Also, detailed floodplain boundary maps are available online from FEMA, on file in City Hall at 175 E. 2nd Street, and at select Tulsa libraries.
New buildings in the floodplain must be protected from flood damage. Our building code requires that new buildings must be elevated one foot above the elevation of the City of Tulsa Regulatory Floodplain. No construction, including filling, is allowed in the mapped floodway without an engineering analysis that shows the project will not increase flood damage elsewhere.
Before you begin construction or add on to your existing building, contact the Mayor's Action Center, 596-2100. Qualified staff can help you build a safe project and comply with local floodplain policies. This information could not only save you time and money - it could save your life.
Cleaner creeks: You can help
Drainage systems are maintained regularly to help prevent water from backing up into streets and homes. If you spot a blocked drain or see illegal development in a flood zone, call 596-2100, and an inspector will investigate.
Don't pour used motor oil, antifreeze, old pesticides or any other pollutants down the storm drainage system. All storm sewers in Tulsa drain to the Arkansas River or Bird Creek and are monitored regularly for compliance with Tulsa's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit.
Putting foreign substances into this system can also cause flooding, and is a violation of City ordinance punishable by fines of up to $100 a day.
Please do your part and keep the inlets and drainage ways clear of brush and debris.
Listen for flood sirens
Emergency sirens are located in neighborhoods throughout Tulsa. When flooding is expected in your area, the emergency sirens will be activated. For floods, the warning will be an alternating high-low siren followed by an explanation over the public address system located on the siren box, if required.
You should immediately turn on your radio or television for news bulletins. Our warning system can interrupt all local radio and television stations, including cable. These bulletins are issued immediately upon receipt of new information.
Before the flood
Be alert when storms approach. Be prepared to move valuables to a higher location and to evacuate immediately, if necessary.
Prepare a flood response plan that will help you think through all the details that demand attention after a flood watch or warning is issued.
Writing it down will help you remember everything, which is especially important when everyone is in a hurry and excited because a flood is coming.
Put photocopies of inventory records, insurance policies, deeds, automobile titles, wills, telephone numbers, bank and credit card account numbers, and other valuable papers at a location away from your house, such as a safe deposit box.
If you know a flood is coming you should shut off the gas and electricity and move valuable contents of your home upstairs. If you're not sure how to turn off your gas and electricity, call your local utility companies.
When the flood comes
The safety of your family is the most important consideration. Flood waters can rise rapidly, so you should be prepared to evacuate before the water reaches your property.
Do not walk through flowing water. Currents can be deceptive; six inches of moving water can sweep you off your feet. Use a pole or stick to ensure that the ground is still there before you enter standing water.
Do not drive through a flooded area. Most flood deaths occur in cars. Don't drive around road barriers; the road or bridge may be washed out.
If you're caught in the house by floodwater, move to the second floor or to the roof. Take warm clothing, a flashlight, and portable radio with you. Wait for help.
After the flood
Before entering the building, check for structural damage and turn off outside gas lines to your meter. Let the building air out for several minutes before entering.
Watch for electrical shorts and live wires while turning off the main power switch. Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. The number-two flood killer after drowning is electrocution. Electricity can travel through water.
Cover broken windows and holes in the roof or walls to prevent further weather damage.
Proceed with immediate cleanup measures to reduce any health hazards. Take pictures of items being discarded and show them to the insurance appraiser for verification.
Report flooding inside a building as soon as possible to the Mayor's Action Center, 596-2100.
Water for drinking and food preparation should be boiled vigorously for ten minutes.
You need to obtain a permit for repair if it's more than just cleanup. If your property is substantially damaged (50 percent of the value of the building), federal regulations may require you to elevate or floodproof before you can rebuild. Elevation or floodproofing also may be required if you want to construct a substantial improvement (the cost of the improvement or add-on is 50 percent of the value of the existing building).