• Tulsa's 1984 Memorial weekend flood: 35 years later

    By: Megan McClellan


    Quick Facts:

    • Memorial Day 1984 was the worst flood that Tulsa has seen
    • President Ronald Reagan issued a major disaster declaration for the event
    • After the event, Tulsa became one of the leading cities in Flood Mitigation Plans


    The weekend of May 26-27, 1984 is a day that will stay in many Tulsans' memories. It was the worst flooding event in Tulsa's history, caused by 6-15 inches of rain falling in an 8-hour timeframe. The Mingo Creek basin received at least 9 inches of rain, 14 people were killed and more than 250 people were injured.

    When all things were said and done, more than 5,500 buildings were damaged/destroyed, 7,000 vehicles damaged/destroyed, many roadways were destroyed or heavily damaged and President Ronald Reagan issued a major disaster declaration for the event.

    FOX23 Chief Meteorologist James Aydelott grew up in Tulsa. His mom still lives in the house that he grew up in.

    He remembers his dad going to get his grandmother and not coming back until the following morning.

    This particular flood came not long after numerous floods in the 1960s and 1970s, with this one being the worst.

    Afterward, the mayor along with the street commissioner starting working on Tulsa's first Flood Hazard Mitigation Team. This worked on a flood response plan along with a recovery plan. More than 300 flooded homes were moved, a large mobile home park moved, along with more than $12 million in flood works and drainage plans. All in all, this program topped $30 million.

    These changes continued in the coming years, with stormwater management programs allowing Tulsa to be ranked in the early 1990s as number one in the nation for its floodplain management program by FEMA.

    What happens if we see another big rain like in 1984

    Should Tulsa ever see another event like the 1984 Memorial weekend (more than 6 inches of rain in 8 hours), it'll still be a bad situation, but it shouldn't be as bad as the 1984 flooding event.

    There are several things that will help the flooding conditions not be as bad as they were in 1984, some of those things are the mitigation plans and detention/retention ponds that we have in Tulsa but it also helps that we have a lot more detailed information coming in now with regard to rainfall and water rates across the area.

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