Archive for Monday, October 3, 2005

Disaster strikes here

Flooding north of Lawrence forces evacuations, rescues

October 3, 2005


Early Sunday morning, Bill Ferguson found himself holding onto his dog and clutching a tree trunk in his front yard as he fought to keep from getting carried away by a flash flood.

On the front porch of their home northwest of Oskaloosa, Ferguson's wife, Bonnie Ferguson, used a cell phone to dial 911.

"I yelled that I couldn't get back - I just couldn't," Bill Ferguson said several hours later as he recalled the harrowing moments before he was rescued by volunteer firefighters who had to use a boat to get him and his standard poodle.

Ferguson was one of several people who were rescued or evacuated by emergency service crews after a storm dumped about a foot of rain on much of Jefferson County and several surrounding counties Saturday night and during the early morning hours Sunday.

Water overflowed the banks of creeks and covered numerous county roads and highways, including U.S. Highway 24 about 2 miles east of Grantville. The highway remained closed late Sunday night even though the water was receding, said Don Haynes, Jefferson County director of emergency services.

Few injuries

Although there were no fatalities, Jefferson County ambulances did take two people to area hospitals, including a woman who was rescued after spending part of the night clinging to a corn stalk east of Grantville, Jefferson County Sheriff Roy Dunnaway said. The woman had been carried some distance away from her flooded car, he said.

"We could hear her screaming but we couldn't see where she was at," Dunnaway said.

It was unclear exactly how many people were taken out of flooded areas by rescue workers, but Dunnaway said he was personally involved in picking up five people. He used a new air boat with a large fan on its tail that the sheriff's department received only about three weeks ago.

"That boat certainly has paid for itself," Dunnaway said.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks rescued at least nine people in Jefferson County, according to the Kansas Department of Emergency Management.

Wildlife and Parks assisted with the evacuation of families in a few houses near the overflowing Muddy Creek near Grantville, Wildlife and Parks officer Ryan Smidt said. Most of those people were not in serious danger but understandably wanted out, Smidt said.

Kansas River rising

Although only about an inch of rain fell in Lawrence, the city was still feeling the after-effects of the deluge that struck elsewhere. Sunday night the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Kansas River at Lawrence. At 7 p.m., the river level was 17 feet, only a foot below flood stage. It was expected to rise above flood stage early this morning and crest at 18.5 feet. It should fall back below flood level by early afternoon.

By 10 p.m. Sunday the Kansas River was already beginning to overflow its banks in Lawrence. Minor flooding was occurring at Burcham Park and the Riverfront Park boat ramp north of town.

Elsewhere, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius declared an emergency in Jefferson, Jackson, Leavenworth and Shawnee counties.

In Shawnee County, serious flooding problems caused 100 workers to be evacuated from Payless Shoe Source Distribution Center on U.S. 24 in northeast Topeka. In Rossville and Grantville, shelters were opened in the high schools.

The community center in the northern Leavenworth County town of Easton also served as a shelter. More than 50 nursing home residents were evacuated from a facility there before sunrise.

In Oskaloosa, the United Methodist Church was opened to evacuees and people who had to be rescued. The shelter had closed by late afternoon.

'Freaks of nature'

Early Sunday afternoon, a Union Pacific train became stranded and surrounded by water east of Grantville after railway bridges in front and back of the train became washed out. The engineer and a conductor were rescued by the Jefferson County Sheriff's air boat.

The train's engineer, Claude Hughes, said he never felt like he was in danger. Still, it was the first time in his 35-year career with the railroads that he found himself in such a situation.

"It was just one of those freaks of nature," Hughes said later.

Much of the flooding near Oskaloosa occurred north of town, where Chuck and Jackie Bigham, along with a few friends, were trying to clean up and dry out their house Sunday afternoon. Water from nearby Slough Creek streamed through a cornfield and into their house, awakening them earlier in the morning.

"We got our dogs and cats up to the second level," Chuck Bigham said, as he looked over the house after much of the furniture had been moved outside to dry out. The water, which reached up to three feet high inside the first level of the house, had receded. At one point, furniture and appliances - including a big refrigerator - were afloat, he said.

The Bighams were upset because they had already contacted their insurance company and been told they were not covered for flood damage. The flood also complicates their plans to move to Franklin County.

"We had the house up for sale, but who is going to buy it now?" Chuck Bigham said.

Praise for rescuers

Despite the lake of water in their front yard, the Fergusons' house in Oskaloosa was not flooded, they said. Firefighters used their boat to take the Fergusons, their six dogs and their grandchildren to safety. The dogs were eventually taken to a veterinarian. The Fergusons and their grandchildren, Ashley Finstead, 6, and Haley Finstead, 5, of Lawrence, were then taken to the church shelter in Oskaloosa. They had returned to the Fergusons' house by afternoon. The water had receded.

"I just can't say enough praise for the firefighters and the people at the shelter," Bill Ferguson said.

Several Jefferson County roads still had sections that were under water late Sunday, Haynes said. He had asked county school districts not to run bus routes this morning to allow the water to recede and county road crews and engineers the chance to examine the damage to roads and bridges.

"We want to make sure everything is safe," Haynes said.

That request led the Perry-Lecompton and McLouth school districts to close for the day, school officials said.

Haynes and Dunnaway said they had never seen so much rain at one time.

"We've had floods, but I've never seen it rain like that," Dunnaway said. "The water came up so fast and it was so strong."

The Oskaloosa Chamber of Commerce is starting a relief fund for flood victims, chamber President Shawn Patrick said. Donations can be sent to: the Chamber Relief Fund, State Bank of Oskaloosa, P.O. Box 325, Oskaloosa 66066.


dex 12 years, 5 months ago


no fatalities! unexpected flash flood in flash flood territory leaves a woman clinging to a cornstalk!

lunacydetector 12 years, 5 months ago

what's taking FEMA so long?

the governor hasn't requested them yet?

oh, THAT shouldn't matter, they should still be in there doing whatever. how many days will it take?


BDub 12 years, 5 months ago

Poking fun at people whose homes have been flooded is neither clever nor funny.

liz 12 years, 5 months ago

I'm sorry, but that headline is ridiculous. And with all due respect to the guy who had his home flooded, two guns? In Eaton? I'd say it's time to lay off the Fox News. It's a great picture though.

1derer 12 years, 5 months ago

liz: How many guns do you suggest for Eaton? How about KCMO? Do you have an educational background that includes training as an advisor on the amount of protection needed by citizens? Just wondering why you jumped this guy . . .

liz 12 years, 5 months ago

The guy can OWN as many guns as he darn well pleases. I just think that holding one in each hand to ward off "looters" in a rural flood plain is a bit excessive. (I may also be a bit distracted by the fact that he's not actually worried enough to set down his BEER) Maybe there is some sort of history of looting during floods in this area that I am not aware of, but my guess is that his action was somewhat influenced by the recent events in the south. This event is undoubtedly a hardship, but it ain't Katrina.

tolawdjk 12 years, 5 months ago

I will agree, that image is fairly comical.

I mean, it appears he wouldn't be able to do anything very effectively. The pistol is in his off hand (demonstrated by the beer being in his right). He can barely hold the rifle, and do shoot it, he would have to drop his beer, thus risk it floating away. Then his rifle is inhibiting his beer drinking. Truely, this man is in dire straits.

Liberty 12 years, 5 months ago

Could government weather modification be responsible for this??? The military claims that they 'own' the weather and the governor has signed on with the federal government to allow weather modification to occur in Kansas. Could it be that this is the way the globalist plan on getting people off of the rural land and into compact cities??? Just something to ponder.

Liberty 12 years, 5 months ago

Looks like that guy is taking his firearms with him because he knew if FEMA shows up, they would try to steal/confiscate his firearms. He may have a beer, but he is smarter than the rest...

bytheway 12 years, 5 months ago

I can honestly say that I moved out of Oskaloosa in good time. My basement in my old house would have been flooded all to heck. Plus that leak in the roof my husband battled with for five years without any success. What a mess. Hope everyone up there is safe. The weather is hot and muggy down here in southeast central Kansas. A little bit of run but not much else.

alexhorn 12 years, 5 months ago

This bickering is ridiculous. Seems people now-a-days care more about their opinions than they do the plight of humankind. I am thankful that we were not in hurricane Katrina and my heart goes out to the people of the hurrican stricken area. Yesterday, as I stood in my flooded basement with my dead father's soggy baby book - I took a moment to say, yeah, this sucks... but at least I can identify the item I'm holding. It's easy for people who are safe and dry to criticize others. Whether it's 3 inches of water in your basement or your house floating in the Gulf of Mexico - disaster is disaster. And not only that, NOBODY knows what else is going on in the lives of the people losing things (or anyone for that matter). So stop criticizing and bickering and have some compassion.

Liberty 12 years, 5 months ago

The Ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction: "Owning the Weather" for Military Use

Interesting articles about HAARP weather modification etc. But going to the UN is not the answer... Only downsizing government will work.

babyboycat 12 years, 5 months ago

Lighten up alexhorn. Come on firearms in one hand and a Bud in the other. What's he's protecting???

Ceallach 12 years, 5 months ago

The guy with the beer and guns is much younger than I had pictured from the posts. I just had an opportunilty to view the gallery :-) and my oh my! Can you imagine what a couple of decades will bring as he becomes an old coot :)

Ceallach 12 years, 5 months ago

Sorry alexhorn, I could not resist. He should not have allowed them to publish the picture. Or maybe the ljw is lucky he didn't plug 'em.

Linda Aikins 12 years, 5 months ago

Hey, where is that picture? I saw it in the paper this morning, but didn't find it on line.

Linda Aikins 12 years, 5 months ago

Thanks TOB. Got it! I hope it stays local...

It is nice to see pictures with friends and family helping others out with their flooded homes.

Todd 12 years, 5 months ago

That picture did look funny. Chances are he didn't put the pistol in his pocket because he thought it might get wet. It's funny how a photographer will hold back from taking pictures if you were say... taking a piss but if you have a gun and a beer at the same time snap-e-snap-print-e-print.

Wouldn't it be easier to rob these rural places at night with no flood waters? Versus Nawlin's being lined with cops 24/7 save the hurricane/flooding of Katrina. Fears aren't as logical I guess. (or as good at selling newspapers)

jayhawktownie 12 years, 5 months ago

anybody ever think that consuming alcohol while carrying firearms might be grounds for revoking one's gun license? I don't see how a gun is any less dangerous than a car.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 12 years, 5 months ago

There is no such thing as a gun license in Kansas. Thank you, Lynn

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