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Oklahomans Hope Aging Levees Hold Out Amid Near-Historic Flooding In The Heartland

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Evie Fordham Politics and Health Care Reporter

Residents in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and surrounding communities are preparing for severe flooding and are evacuating areas near the Arkansas River as it continues to rise Tuesday.

Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt amended a state of emergency declaration to cover the entire state Friday because of flooding and severe storms, according to AccuWeather. The Tulsa area is just one of many spots, including Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri, reacting to record-breaking floods in May.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum appeared on NPR Tuesday to discuss how the area’s aging levees are doing with the near-historic floodwaters, which have hovered around 23 feet compared to the record of 25.21 feet set in 1986. More than a million people could be affected, according to CBS News. (RELATED: ‘It’s Just The Weather’: Meteorologist Fact-Checks Ocasio-Cortez On Climate Change)

“These are 70-year-old-plus earthen levees that were constructed in the ’40s. And they have — while they’ve had higher water levels on them, that high-water level was for about 12 hours. We are looking at probably a week to 10 days of levels at this — ‘this levee system has just never been tested the way it is right now,” Bynum said.

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Hundreds of residents west of Tulsa have evacuated their homes, and officials shut down several roads near the river, according to AccuWeather. Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing water from the Keystone Dam near Tulsa to offset rainfall.

The flooding hit states that made it through tornadoes that swept the heartland earlier in May. At least 19 tornadoes hit states including Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, according to CNN. In Oklahoma, two people died and 29 were injured after a tornado tore through a mobile home park near Oklahoma City Sunday, reported the Associated Press. A Tulsa suburb was hit by a second tornado.

Residents as far east as Washington, D.C., hunkered down amid a tornado warning on May 23. The extreme weather also prompted Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to blame the devastation on climate change.

“The climate crisis is real y’all,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Instagram May 23, “guess we’re at casual tornadoes in growing regions of the country?”

The congresswoman was quickly fact-checked by meteorologist Ryan Maue, who pointed out that far from proof of a “climate crisis,” D.C.’s tornado warning was “just the weather.”

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