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Archive for Monday, May 10, 1993

RAIN PUTS DAMPER ON WORK AND PLAY

May 10, 1993

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May storms have packed a month's worth of rain into nine days, making outdoor life a pain for road crews, farmers and recreation officials.

Sewers are backing up, Clinton Lake's swimming beach sits under water, farmers wait to plant, softball games go unplayed and road crews feel paralyzed, watching the potholes proliferate.

An engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the Kansas River appeared to crest in Lawrence at about 11 a.m. today. The Corps computer system was down this morning, making an exact measurement difficult, he said.

The Kansas University Weather Service reported that 4.3 inches of rain have fallen since May 1. The monthly average is 4.63 inches. A respite may not come until late Wednesday.

The forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of rain tonight, and rain chances Tuesday are pegged at 60 percent.

George Osborne, Lawrence superintendent of parks and forestry, said he was among hundreds of residents who stood near creeks and rivers Sunday, watching the water rise.

"Around here, it's cheap entertainment," Osborne said.

A big cottonwood tree fell in Burcham Park, Osborne said. "If the river comes up five feet more, it'll wash down the river," making removal a snap, he said.

BECAUSE the ground is soaked, other trees could fall if high winds sweep through the area, Osborne said.

Flooding prompted authorities to close three lanes of North Second Street and a block of North Street in North Lawrence early this morning.

"There are problems in that area every time we get a large amount of rain," police Lt. Mark Brothers said.

Douglas County Sheriff's Lt. Mike Suitt said this morning that he was not aware of any roads closed in the county.

However, he said parts of county roads 1135E and 1075N, known as the low water bridge, had been barricaded. The roads are located about two miles south of Lawrence.

Few motorists use the route, Suitt said.

No state highways in or near Douglas County were flooded or closed this morning, a dispatcher for the Kansas Highway Patrol said.

IN THE surrounding area, a section of Leavenworth County Road 8, about five miles east of McLouth, was closed because of high water, Leavenworth County dispatcher Bill Duncan said.

No evacuations have been necessary yet, he said.

Jefferson County officials reported the same. However, some roads in Jefferson County were closed near the Delaware River north of Valley Falls.

Clinton Lake crews have moved docks up to high ground. Boat ramps, some picnic tables and the swimming beach are under water, said Victor Counts, project director.

The corps closed the dam's gates Friday night to keep river levels under control. This morning, the gates opened a crack, releasing 21 cubic feet per second. The corps has had to release as much as 1,800 cubic feet per second on dry days.

The city parks and recreation department closed Burcham Park at Third and Indiana because of flooding, said director Fred DeVictor. Constant Park north of downtown had floodwaters nearly reaching the railroad tracks, he said.

THE SOAKED ground, he said, is starving plants and trees of oxygen. It hasn't, however, stopped the grass from growing.

Parks maintenance crews are having difficulty finding enough dry time to cut the grass, DeVictor said.

"Do we do turf damage or let the grass grow?" he said. "When it rains and the sun comes out, you can almost see the grass growing. It's difficult for the mowing crews to keep up. But you don't want to go in with vehicles and make ruts."

Several parks and recreation construction projects have been put on hold since last fall because of the rainfall, DeVictor said.

Rainfall has kept parks employees from painting the community pool, but DeVictor said he still is hopeful the pool will be open by Memorial Day.

In three weeks, 203 softball games have been canceled, and only two of four weeks of spring sand volleyball have been played, said Bob Stanclift, adult sports superintendent.

THE CANCELED softball games are being rescheduled, although some rescheduled games have been rainouts as well, Stanclift said.

Other outdoor activities such as Sunday's Art in the Park and a fishing clinic for children have been canceled altogether.

At least Mother Earth enjoys the rain.

"In a strange way, the rain has added a lot toward soil conservation," said Doug Gahn, district conservationist for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service.

Gahn said wet weather has prevented farmers from removing crop residues from their fields, slowing erosion.

However, he said farmers should maintain their "terraces," grooves that direct rainwater into a grassy channel, as soon as possible.

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