In the past year, northeast Kansas has gone from a period of drought that put streams and even a section of one area lake on the critical list to a period of plentiful moisture that has bordered on oversaturation.
"Most of the ponds are up to the overflow tubes," said Bill Wood, Kansas State University agricultural extension agent for Douglas County. "If there is even a hint of a stream, it is flowing."
Measurements of current lake levels and stream flow rates for this area tell the story, said Jim Putnam, hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey office in Lawrence.
"They are all flowing much more than they were a year ago, and that's because of the rains," Putnam said.
For example, the Geological Survey gauges Wednesday showed the Delaware River was flowing into Lake Perry at a rate of 351 cubic feet per second. A year ago it was down to less than 1 cubic foot per second.
"It was zero inflow, basically," Putnam said. "It went dry at one point."
Lake Perry's elevation now is 7 feet higher than a year ago.
"Most likely it got most of that in the middle and last part of June," Putnam said.
Other increases in water flow:
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from Perry into the Kansas River at the rate of 3,380 cfs. The river at Lecompton's gauge shows it is flowing at 18,500 cubic feet per second. A year ago at the same location, it was down to 2,290 cubic feet, Putnam said. In addition to Perry, the river has several other tributaries.
- In Leavenworth County, Stranger Creek near Tonganoxie was flowing at 277 cfs. A year ago it was at less than 2 cfs.
- Water also is being released from Clinton Lake into the Wakarusa River, where it was flowing at the rate of 1,360 cfs -- considerably higher than last year's 22 cfs rate. Clinton's level is 3 feet higher than it was a year ago.
- Other regional lakes are at higher levels as well, such as Pomona (2 feet) and Melvern (1.5 feet), according to the Geological Survey.
"We are in our thunderstorm time of year, and they (lakes and streams) are going to be a little above normal, and that is exactly what has happened," Putnam said.
Wednesday afternoon the official rainfall total for Lawrence this year was 23.22 inches, or about 8 inches higher than a year ago, said 6News meteorologist Matt Sayers. Normal rainfall is 20.57 inches through July 6.
Friday the official National Weather Service rain gauge at Lawrence Municipal Airport picked up 4.14 inches of rain during a midday downpour that caused flash-flooding problems on some area streets and roads. Yet there have been no significant flooding problems in rural areas, Putnam said.
"I'm surprised the rain we had over the weekend didn't cause more problems, but things have been dry for so long," he said. "We're saturating that ground, which has not been saturated for quite some time."
Historically, stream and river flows and levels now are comparable with normal or slightly above-normal rates recorded by the Geological Survey over a period of at least 30 years, Putnam said.
Will the rains continue at this rate?
"It looks to me like we will slip into a more typical summerlike pattern," Sayers said.
National Weather Service meteorologists agreed. Typical July weather should return in the next few days. That means less rain and high temperatures around 90 degrees and lows in the low 70s, meteorologist Steve Kays said.