US Oklahoma floods disrupt refinery, rail; cause evacuations

Author: Lane Kelley


HOUSTON (ICIS)--Severe flooding across northern Oklahoma this week has presented life-threatening situations in Tulsa and the state’s eastern region, with one refinery shut down and several rail lines disrupted.

The following map from the National Weather Service shows the areas under flood watch (dark green), under flash-flood warning (maroon) and under flood warning (light green). Most of the dark green is in Oklahoma.

HollyFrontier began shutting down its Tulsa refinery today because of flooding and high water there, sources said. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this week, BNSF Railway and Union Pacific said severe weather had disrupted their operations in Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas, with heavy rain causing track washouts and high water on multiple subdivisions in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

The following map shows the disruptions on BNSF's lines.

Source: BNSF Railway

Union Pacific said customers should expect shipments moving through the affected areas to be delayed by 48-72 hours.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued flood warnings across Oklahoma, with Tulsa police urging residents near the Arkansas River there to evacuate.

The NWS in Tulsa increased the forecasted level of the Arkansas River from 21 feet (6 metres) to 23 feet, putting the river in major flood stage and only 2 feet shy of levels reached in record floods during 1986.

“Additional rainfall will be possible this afternoon and tonight in areas that are already experiencing life-threatening flooding,” said the Tulsa NWS. “The additional rainfall will exacerbate and likely continue these dangerous flooding conditions across the area for an extended period of time.”

Muskogee County, southeast of Tulsa, ordered the entire town of Webbers Falls to evacuate because of of expected flooding from the Arkansas River.

There was also record flooding in Ponca City, in the north central region of the state. More than six inches (15 cm) of rain fell on Tuesday and water continued to rise on Thursday, with more rainfall expected.

Oklahoma has other refineries in addition to HollyFrontier as well as ammonia plants.

The state is also home to the Cushing crude hub and several pipelines.

Out of caution, Tallgrass Energy shut down the south end of the Pony Express system because of flooding in the region, the company said.

Additional reporting by Alex Snodgrass and Al Greenwood