Archive for Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Rainfall swamps northern Kansas towns

June 24, 2003


— Leanna White hadn't been asleep long when she was awakened at 5:30 Monday morning by the sound of knocking at her front door.

"They said the water was rising and it was up to me if I wanted to stay," said White, who has lived in this tiny north-central Kansas town of about 460 for three months. "But I think it's gonna miss us by about 3 feet."

So, White decided to remain at home even as on the west side of town, men in rowboats were hauling sandbags to put around doors of houses that were sitting in waist-deep water.

Elsewhere in Republic County, most roads were closed leading to Republic, population about 160. Folks in Republic and Scandia were advised Monday to just stay home, White said.

Many rural residents served by the local electric cooperative were without power Monday morning because of downed power lines.

"Right now, we have about 500 homes without power," said Doug Jackson, general manager of the Rolling Hills Electric Cooperative in Belleville. "The biggest problem we're having is because of the flooding, getting in to repair damage."

He said some workers are going into areas on all-terrain vehicles to assess damage because the cooperative's trucks can't get there.

Jackson estimated a couple of hundred customers won't have power restored until Wednesday.

"I really feel bad for the farmers," he said. "It was looking like a bumper crop -- some of the best wheat crop they've ever had is being destroyed."

House Majority Leader Clay Aurand, who farms 11 miles north of Courtland, said the water near his home was as high as he's ever seen it, but not nearly as bad as in other parts of the county.

"My corn is a lot shorter than it was yesterday because of the hail," he said. "It got pretty well shredded up."

He said water from a nearby creek had come up to his back door and his basement carpet was saturated. As for his crops, he hasn't ventured out to see most of them.

"I saw my cornfield," he said. "I saw enough to last me awhile."

The county's largest town, Belleville, was largely unscathed. A reported 4 1/2 inches of rain fell there, but to the north the storms unleashed between 6 inches and more than a foot of rain onto many areas.

White said she sat outside Sunday evening and watched the clouds as tornado sirens wailed for about half an hour.

"To the south it was clear, but up north it looked pretty bad," she said.

Around 1 a.m., the thunder and lightning rolled in, White said, and stuck around for about three hours. She was awake during most of it.

"There's been enough excitement here, it kind of keeps you up," she said.

Joy Moser, of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, said tornadoes damaged three houses Sunday in an area between Courtland and Republic, near the Nebraska line.

A storm spotter reported seeing a tornado on the ground north of Courtland at 7:45 p.m., Moser said, and the National Weather Service also reported a tornado at 8:05 p.m.

The Republic County Emergency Management office said several people were stranded early Monday by water deep enough that deer and cattle were seen swimming in it.

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