Dangerous floods leave Plains, Midwest ‘at the mercy of Mother Nature’

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By Kerry Sanders and Alex Johnson

TULSA, Okla. — The 3,000 electronic games and gaming tables are silent at River Spirit Casino Resort as the water encroaches, idling more than 1,500 employees in an eerie scene threatening to repeat itself in flood-soaked communities across the Midwest and the Great Plains.

The 200,000-square-foot gambling mecca has been closed since the Arkansas River began flooding last week, and it’s expected to remain closed until at least the middle of next week, said Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos, which operates the casino.

The casino’s pool bar is under water, which has even entered its famed tiki bar, the resort said.

“We’re still at the mercy of Mother Nature, waiting for the water to stop rising,” Pat Crofts, the company’s chief executive, said Tuesday.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing 275,000 cubic feet of water per second from the Keystone Dam, which protects Tulsans from the waters of Keystone Lake and the Arkansas and Cimarron rivers upstream.

Authorities warned Tuesday that the release could raise standing floodwaters by more than a foot in Tulsa and the communities of Sand Springs and Bixby.

More than 2 million gallons of water a second is flowing toward Tulsa, putting the city’s 75-year-old network of levees at risk of failing. If that were to happen, entire neighborhoods would flood with water that the Tulsa Health Department said is likely to be full of snakes, sewage and debris.

“We are planning for and preparing for the flood of record, and we think everybody along the Arkansas River corridor ought to be doing the same,” Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said Tuesday.

With more storms expected arrive Tuesday night, “please prepare for the worst-case scenario that we’ve had in the history of the city,” Bynum urged Tulsa’s 400,000 residents.

At least six deaths have been confirmed in Oklahoma since the severe weather and flooding began early last week, the state’s chief medical examiner said. Every county in the state remained under emergency declarations on Tuesday.

Two levees northwest of Little Rock on the Arkansas side of the river have already been topped as the flooding swallows up much of the Arkansas-Oklahoma border, said the state Department of Emergency Management, which closed two major bridges spanning the river on Monday night.

Kerry Sanders and Alex Johnson and Kimberly Flores Guzmán and Colin Sheeley
2019-05-29 02:47:10

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