Arkansas River

Angel Portillo doesn't think about climate change much. It's not that he doesn't care. He just has other things to worry about. Climate change seems so far away, so big.

Lately though, Portillo says he has been thinking about it more often.

Standing on the banks of a swollen and surging Arkansas River, just upriver from a cluster of flooded businesses and homes, it's easy to see why.

"Stuff like this," he says, nodding at the frothy brown waters, "all of the tornadoes that have been happening — it just doesn't seem like a coincidence, you know?"

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Early estimates for repairs to roads and bridges from May storms are coming in at $2 million.

Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz says he expects those numbers to rise as crews run conditional assessments and the cost could rise to $10 million.

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May was one of the wettest months ever in Oklahoma, with parts of the state receiving record rainfall. Many communities are still dealing with the aftermath, and those efforts could be complicated by more heavy rain this month.

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Standing next to his mud-splattered red pickup in Central Arkansas, a tired Robert Stobaugh watches an osprey soar over a field of flooded rice. If anything can survive flooding, he says, it's rice.

"But even rice doesn't like this," he says, looking at the swamp of rust-brown water in front of him.

Old Levees Tested Yet Again

Jun 2, 2019

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Floodwaters are receding in Tulsa, Okla., and 70-year-old levees that protect most of the town held. But as NPR's Frank Morris reports, now Tulsa and other communities flooded this year face a reckoning about how to shore up defenses before the next flood.

Updated at 9:35 p.m. ET

The Arkansas River just keeps rising. The usually placid tributary of the Mississippi has become a bloated torrent carrying entire trees downstream, drowning riverfront property and halting commerce for hundreds of miles.

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NPR's Audie Cornish speaks with Col. Christopher Hussin, of Army Corps of Engineers in Oklahoma, about the state's levee system and the threat it faces from historic flooding.

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A surge of floodwater is moving from Oklahoma and into Arkansas. The rain has been relentless the past month and swollen rivers and tributaries are overwhelming some cities.

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