Archive for Friday, November 6, 1998

S LEVY GATES WERE REOPENED THURSDAY AFTERNOON AFTER KEEPING DOWNTOWN DRY.

November 6, 1998

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U.S. Highway 59 was reopened at Ottawa Thursday afternoon after the bridge over the Marais des Cygnes River passed an inspection by the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The bridge was closed over the weekend after flood waters began flowing over, rather than under, it.

Special levy gates at both ends of the bridge were closed to keep high water out of downtown Ottawa. Except for a few small leaks, they did the job, said Andy Haney, Ottawa public works director.

The weekend's rain caused the river to crest Monday at a depth of nearly 39 feet -- three feet over the surface of the highway bridge.

By Thursday, the river was down to a more manageable 12 feet, Haney said.

"The bottom has dropped out," he said. "Somebody pulled the plug."

City crews cleared debris from the bridge, and the special gates were pulled open at 1:30 p.m. with a backhoe as Dairy Queen employees cheered.

The gates, completed in 1962, "worked like a champ," Haney said.

"We had some minor problems -- I want to emphasize the word `minor' -- with a couple of leaks," Haney said. "It certainly didn't present a problem for us. It was just a couple trickles of water."

Haney said videotapes of the leaks would be shown to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to see if anything could be done to stop them.

Haney said the city paid overtime to city employees who were called in to deal with the high water, but he hadn't estimated the cost. There was little, if any, permanent damage caused to city property by the flood, he said.

"We've just got a lot of cleanup in the area that is going to have to start happening," he said. "The water was high and fast and over a wide area."

High water caused problems for several homes in the city.

"There are parts of town that are not levy protected," Haney said. "The backwaters of the river got up into those areas."

Lawrence fared better than Ottawa in general, though the Kansas River did rise above flood stage, which is 18 feet deep. By Thursday the river was down under 15 feet deep.

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