With the Arkansas River overflowing and Keystone Dam releasing water nearly three times faster than Niagara Falls, the flooding situation has intensified for communities downstream.
On Tuesday morning, officials were releasing water at 275,000 cubic feet per second from the gates, and with more rain in the forecast this week, sources say it is possible to eclipse 300,000 cfs. For comparison, Niagara Falls sends water downstream at approximately 100,000 cfs.
Early Tuesday morning, Keystone Lake reached a record high in its 50-year history at 34 feet above normal (757 feet above sea level). In September 1964, the dam was flood-control operational. Since records have been kept by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the lake never has reached these heights.
Inflow briefly dipped lower than the outflow on Tuesday, but inflow from the river, from the Upper Arkansas Basin, sped up again to 285,000 cfs.
Engineers and hydrologists are carefully managing what is a delicate balancing act, keeping areas upstream from flooding more around Keystone Lake, but also not sending water out faster than the levees in Tulsa and communities downstream can handle it. Mannford is seeing major flooding in the low-lying areas of its city proper and housing developments along the river are experiencing a lot of flooding. Just below the dam in Sand Springs and Fisher Bottom, dozens and dozens of homes are up to the roof in water.
The dam information constantly is changing, so for up-to-date numbers, the Corps has a page on its website with hourly data on both Keystone and Kaw Dam, which feeds the river and makes its way through the Cleveland area to Keystone.
To access the lake data, including real-time inflow and outflow, go to http://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/KEYS.lakepage.html
As for the Cleveland levee, which is managed by the Corps, officials say there have been no problems spotted. Engineers are making multiple checks each day, collecting information about the integrity of the structure, including any possible seepage or potential breach, along with monitoring water levels. They have reported nothing of concern as of Tuesday afternoon; however, the data they are obtaining will help them study the historic flooding event to keep people safe over time.
The Cleveland levee around the Arkansas/Cedar Creek is 11 feet higher above sea level than the top of Keytone’s flood pool, which gives a bit of a safeguard to those upstream in the city proper.
To the naked eye, it appears the water level is only a few feet from topping the levee. By taking into consideration the levee walls go out at a 40-degree angle, the capacity is much more than it seems. As water gets higher, it takes even more for it to climb the walls due to the angle.
Near Feyodi Creek, which is an off-shoot of the Arkansas River before it joins up with Keystone Lake south of the city, standing water is everywhere you look. Feyodi was closed on May 21 due to the rising water, which only has gotten worse, reaching all the way to U.S. Highway 64.
There is rain in the forecast for several days this week. The Mesonet station in Pawnee has measured about 15 inches of precipitation for our area in the last 14 days. The 30-day rainfall total for areas of eastern Pawnee County (as of May 28) is more than 21 inches, according to the Mesonet.
Low-lying areas all over the county are filled with floodwaters, and even areas not in a flood plain are soggy, wet messes. Those who are in low-lying areas and who see water continue to creep up to their property should assess and take proper precautions and remain aware.