Archive for Monday, July 2, 2007

New flooding raises memories of ‘51 disaster

From left, Michael Pedersen, 13, Dylan Sauer, 13, and Sam Lee, 13, pedal through floodwater at Freedom Park in Ottawa.

From left, Michael Pedersen, 13, Dylan Sauer, 13, and Sam Lee, 13, pedal through floodwater at Freedom Park in Ottawa.

July 2, 2007


Nicole Crawford, front left, and Aubri Osburn, 14, walk across a railing on the U.S. Highway 59 bridge over the Marais Des Cygnes River in Ottawa. The floodgates remained closed Monday, protecting downtown Ottawa from floodwaters that flowed over the roadway.

Nicole Crawford, front left, and Aubri Osburn, 14, walk across a railing on the U.S. Highway 59 bridge over the Marais Des Cygnes River in Ottawa. The floodgates remained closed Monday, protecting downtown Ottawa from floodwaters that flowed over the roadway.

Floodgates help spare most homes in Ottawa

Heavy rains have caused major flooding in many parts of eastern Kansas, but 30 miles South of Lawrence, in Ottawa, floodgates spared most homes and the downtown business district from what would have likely been a disaster. Enlarge video

Lawrence stays dry; area towns hit hard by flooding

Lawrence dodges a major bullet - getting less than two inches of rain since Wednesday, as areas to the South collect more than a foot of water in a matter of days. Enlarge video

County, city workers help in flooded areas

Several Douglas County and Lawrence city employees were sent Monday to assist southeastern Kansas counties and cities reeling from the weekend's heavy rain and flooding.

Assistant Douglas County Administrator Pam Madl began three days of work in Independence. Joining her there for three days were Sheriff Ken McGovern and sheriff's Lt. Kari Wempe.

Debbie Sparkes, an employee in the county finance office, is working three days in Fredonia.

A total of seven sheriff's officers and Lawrence police officers were sent to work a 12-hour shift in Allen County. Among them was Undersheriff Steve Hornberger.

— Record-breaking rainfall over the past several days has chased thousands of Kansans to higher ground, swamped towns and left many remembering the 1951 flood that has been called the state's worst disaster.

"I saw the '51 flood but it was not this bad," said Kay Vogler, 70, of Ottawa as she watched water rush over the U.S. Highway 59 bridge, while floodgates kept it from nearby downtown businesses.

The water has dropped quite a bit since Sunday, Vogler said.

"It's the worst I've ever seen," she said. "But I am so grateful for flood control, because if we did not have the floodgates it would be disastrous."

Some towns were hit hard as rivers peaked after a weekend of historic rainfall amounts that surpassed 20 inches in some areas.

President Bush issued a federal disaster declaration for 18 southeast Kansas counties, including Franklin County.

No flood-related fatalities had been reported as of Monday evening.

In Lawrence, authorities breathed a sigh of relief for having missed much of the deluge, although some were confident that a similar rain event could be contained. There were no reports of flooding in Lawrence.

Lew Ruona, Clinton Lake's project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the lake was built to handle such a mammoth rain. Clinton was created in the wake of the 1951 flood and opened in 1981.

"The purpose of the lake is that Lawrence would be protected," Ruona said.

Evacuations, spills

In Osawatomie, approximately 20 miles southeast of Ottawa, the swollen Pottawatomie Creek and Marais des Cygnes River near the Kansas-Missouri line forced the evacuation of 40 percent of the town's 4,600 residents.

In Coffeyville, more than 42,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Verdigris River from the Coffeyville Resources refinery.

About a third of the homes in Coffeyville and a quarter of homes in Independence were evacuated because oily floodwater was surrounding them. Drinking water for Coffeyville, Independence and Elk City was shut down.

"We're very concerned. It's chemicals mixed with water. The city : is blocked off until water recedes," said Coffeyville Mayor Virgil Horn, whose own house was submerged.

Many water treatment plants have been flooded, prompting emergency officials to issue boil advisories in Independence, Elk City, Fredonia, Neodesha, Longton and 16 rural water districts in Montgomery and Wilson counties.

Franklin County damage

As the floodwaters began to subside, Franklin County leaders tried to survey damage Monday. Flooded roads were starting to open every hour.

"It will be (today) and even into next week before we have a complete idea of the damage we have in the county," said Alan Radcliffe, Franklin County emergency management director.

He said overall damage in the county didn't appear to be as severe as other places, but about 40 to 50 homes, including 10 to 15 in Lane, were evacuated or sustained floodwater damage. No injuries were reported.

In Ottawa, five businesses on the western side of the city sustained damage. Due to the heavy rains that began Wednesday, the Marais de Cygnes River rose to about 41 feet, or about 4 feet below the top of the levee, which caused the city to close the levee's underground gates Saturday.

Then, rain that fell in the city later Saturday was unable to drain into the river. In that situation, the city's pump system kicks in to move new rainwater over the levee and into the river. But because it rained so much, it caused more flooding at low-lying spots, Radcliffe said.

The gates on the Main Street bridge were closed Saturday and kept downtown from any significant flood damage, Radcliffe said.

"Comparing it to a flood, this is probably the worst flood we've had since '51," Radcliffe said.

Ottawa had received about 10 inches of rain since Wednesday, and about 17 inches of rain fell in some parts of southern Franklin County. Emergency management officials are still surveying damage and waiting to hear about federal assistance, Radcliffe said.

Flooded property

"It just stormed really bad and flooded a lot of streets," said Melissa Daniels, of Ottawa. "It flooded my church, Bethany Church, and we had to go pump water out of the church. It was like 3 feet of water.

"When you wade in it, you could feel it push you to the side. It is hard to walk through. All the debris kicks at your feet and you have to pick your feet up to get through the debris."

Della Sandgren, of Ottawa, owns the building with a Dollar General and liquor stores just north of the river and the U.S. 59 bridge.

Sandgren said her parking lot was covered in 6 inches of water. The Dollar General store had about 3 inches of water in it, but it went out on its own, she said.

"Lots of property owners will be clearing brush and muck out of their houses," she said.

Health officials urged residents to stay out of flooded areas due to sewage, hazardous materials and other spills in the water.

High river levels

Rivers in southeast Kansas reached historic levels over the weekend.

The Fall River at Fredonia, Elk River at Elk Falls and Verdigris River at Independence hit their highest river stages since 1945, the Neosho River near Parsons crested at its highest stage since 1951 and the Marais des Cygnes River hit its highest level since gauge operation started in 1959.

"Provisional information indicates that the flood peaks on the Verdigris River, Fall River and Marais des Cygnes River will be greater than the 100-year flood levels, meaning that these floods have a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year," said Jim Putnam, U.S. Geological Service hydrologist.

- Staff writer George Diepenbrock and The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Linda Endicott 10 years, 12 months ago

I live in Ottawa...

I was wondering why all those kids were walking or riding their bikes on the bridge AFTER the flood gates were closed? Easy enough to get down there...but where the hell were the stupid parents who were letting their kids do this idiotic stuff? Where were the city officials who should have run them away from the area?

The level of the river rose to be way over the railings of the bridge. And it rose FAST. Those kids shouldn't have been down there. They could have been washed away.

Don't people teach their kids anything anymore? How stupid can you be?

lunacydetector 10 years, 12 months ago

that's nice -you condone stupidity, then state you're glad no one was killed.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 12 months ago

Oh, yeah...not to mention all the debris and bacteria that is contained in floodwaters...

What would the parents of one of those little darlings do if they'd got hit by a board or something with nails in it, while they were having their "fun"?

Again...don't people teach their kids anything anymore?

MyName 10 years, 12 months ago

Considering the source, I'd probably take that as a compliment if I were them.

It's good to hear that no one was killed. Unfortunately, I do know some of the people who were affected by this and it really is not a good situation. 100 year floods, F5 tornados, and it's only July in Kansas. Sometimes I think our ancestors were crazy to settle here!

lunacydetector 10 years, 12 months ago

the photo of the two girls walking across the river on the rail - are they both 14, or is the blonde gal an adult walking with a minor of 14? regardless, they are not very intelligent.

ImTooOldForThis 10 years, 11 months ago

Oh give me a break. Get over it. Nobody died. Nobody is going to die. When there is a cholera outbreak you can grab your megaphone and scream "I told ya so, I told ya so..." but for now, relax. The town is under water and you idiots can only think of just how incredibly stupid everyone else is.

mechman 10 years, 11 months ago

u can bet that if they had slipped & fallen into river their parents would have sued Ottawa.. cops need to arrest both kids & kids that were in raft yesterday in lawrence without lifejackets parents need to be billed for time wakarusa fd & other emergency crews were out to rescue these brats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Christian Hinton 10 years, 11 months ago

It will be a comfort to know that the next time I hear about a juvenile flood casualty in Ottawa it was all for an LJWorld photo shoot.

trinity 10 years, 11 months ago

oh, man, i kinda thought that was a little idiotic to be walking along those railings-until i remember back when(in ottawa, btw)we'd zoom around forest park on bicycles when the water was waist deep. and play in skunk run when it was running hard. and shoot bottle rockets at each other. and have hours upon hours to spend in imaginative sometimes dangerous play. and when adults told us to stop doing something, get away from someplace, etc-we'd DO it without mouthing off to 'em, much like what happens now.

get off the young'uns, they're fine; not really much more risk than when ya load 'em up in an suv&strike out on a busy highway for yet another scheduled frenzied trip to a ball tournament or some such stuff.

countrygirl 10 years, 11 months ago

Aren't they walking on the shorter rail that seperates the road from a walkway on the edge of the bridge? Looks to me like the worst that's going to happen is they're going to get wet ankles and maybe a bruise from the taller railing that lines the bridge. Look a little closer before you all get so excited.

farmgal 10 years, 11 months ago

I lived in the Ottawa area for over 10 years. Always referred to it as Little Arkansas on the Marais des Cygnes. (the d is not supposed to be capitalized). Good Lord, Ottawa has some of the dumbest people I've ever met in my life. Too high percentage of them, for sure. I feel sorry for the people who have extensive damage to their homes and possessions. Yeah, it's dangerous to be around all the flooding water, but kids do dangerous things in order to have some adventure. I hate to think of all the chemicals that Chem-Lawn put down last week before they all got washed away into the Marais des Cygnes. Shameful!

Linda Endicott 10 years, 11 months ago

How can any of you condone this kind of stupidity?

Trinity, I live in Ottawa, and the flooding in Forest Park is from rain water that doesn't drain out fast enough. That's a far cry from river water during a flood, which contains hazardous chemicals from farms and homes, debris like trees and pieces of buildings, sewage, animal feces from nearby farms, and dead animals.

For heaven's kind of parents drag out the GermX every time one of your little darlings picks up something someone else dropped on the floor, but you think it's okay for them to wade in flood water that contains all those nasties?

From what I saw and heard, countrygirl, the river rose really fast, and it went way over the top railing on the bridge. They could have been swept over the edge, or slipped and fallen over the edge.

If you want to risk your kids' lives for a little "fun", fine. I wouldn't have let mine do it. Not worth the risk.

And yeah, if anything had happened to the little darlings, the parents probably would have sued the city.

So I think from now on, the city and the police should monitor the bridge when the water is high and the gates are closed. Then run off anybody stupid enough to pull stunts like this.

Oh, hell, yes, informed, I did many stupid things when I was a kid. Didn't make it right, though. And yeah, I got away with doing stupid things and nobody got hurt, though they could have...because one of the stupid things they do is driving drunk...

But I guess using your logic, since nobody was hurt or died (like getting cholera), that meant it was okay and we should just turn a blind eye.

If you want your kids to have great fun playing in the flood waters, then why don't you volunteer them all to go to Quenemo, Osawatomie, Coffeyville, etc., and help with the cleanup?

salad 10 years, 11 months ago

Pretty sure the water right there is over 50' deep and moving fast enough to easily sweep you off your feet and pin you against the opposite railing. Unlikely they'd get swept over the bridge, but they could easily end up drowning in waist deep water. If I were a cop, I'd be pissed that these two ding-dongs were setting up a situation in which I'd have to risk my life to go fetch them from certain death.
On the other hand, stupid people can't seem to help themselves from doing things like that. Thinning the herd.......

trinity 10 years, 11 months ago

oh man oh man, does somebody need a lighten up pill??

and hey whoever lived in ottawa for 10 years&feels the need to bash the general population, i feel sorry for ya; you must have experienced a very small sampling of the population. or you just didn't deign the peasants worthy of your presence. there are some great, wonderful, brilliant people in ottawa-only many of 'em (me included) are wising up&moving the H out of there.

farmgal 10 years, 11 months ago

Didn't say they were ALL stupid. (you need to re-read). Just too high of a percentage of them.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 11 months ago

There are lots of people who have lost everything due to this flooding. Some don't know where they are going to be living tomorrow.

So am I upset that some idiot parents and their fool children use the flood waters as a place to play?

You bet I am.

Just forget about all the tragedy that it caused, kiddies. Don't worry about getting hurt. You're my child. God wouldn't dare let anything happen to you. So go out and have your fun. After all, having fun is the only important thing in life, you know.

Grow up.

hawklet21 10 years, 11 months ago

farmgal, I think you are the one that needs to re-read. Trinity said that you were bashing the GENERAL population. What do you think general means?

farmgal 10 years, 11 months ago

hawklet21, have you ever lived in Ottawa or Franklin Co.? It's a whole 'nother world! I stand by my original assessment that it is no more than a little Arkansas on the Marais des Cygnes River.

countrygirl 10 years, 11 months ago

Guess you're right 75x55, I wouldn't want to ruin anyone's fun by trying to inject some logic. You all have fun with reading what you want into the picture and bashing the residents of Franklin Co.

hawklet21 10 years, 11 months ago

farmgal- Did I ever say you were wrong? :-P You were just calling Trinity out for something that you misunderstood. And actually, yeah, I lived in Ottawa almost twice as long as you did.

Danielle Brunin 10 years, 11 months ago

I hope those kids riding their bikes are up-to-date on their tetanus shots. (Using Homer Simpson voice) "Mmm, raw sewage." I would also be afraid of getting bitten by a garr or cranky snapping turtle, and oh yeah, drowning, but that's just me.

MyName 10 years, 11 months ago

that's nice -you condone stupidity, then state you're glad no one was killed.

No, I was just pointing out the obvious: that only a complete moron would try to base their opinions about what is (or is not) a good course of action by listening to some of the jokers that populate this forum (yourself included Lunacy).

And since no one has been killed, so far, in this flooding, I'd venture to guess that none of them sat down and asked themselves "what would Lunacy do" before responding to this crisis. Not only that, I spent a good part of my weekend in Osawatomie dealing with this stuff, and I'd say the biggest issue was not a lack of good sense, but a complete lack of any way for most of the people there to get reliable information about what was happening.

But hey, you've got magical powers and can tell people's motivation and intelligence just by looking at a crappy LJWorld photo. Clearly, I should just stop what I'm doing and listen to you, oh great Wisenheimer!

TheHeartlessBureaucrat 10 years, 11 months ago

Common Unsafe Behavior Related to Weather:

  1. Snow: Sledding
  2. Ice Storm: Driving
  3. Flood: Playing in it
  4. Tornados: Video Taping Them
  5. Heat: Laying in it It seems like an unquenchable desire to get involved in our environment for some folks, even with the risk of severe bodily harm. Some call it foolishness, some call it fun.

Maybe its natural selection.


farmgal 10 years, 11 months ago

rodentgirl16, the county is offering free tetanus shots to anyone who has come in contact with the flood waters.

when I say that Franklin Co. has some of the stupidest people I've ever met, one example comes to mind 1st. (I can think of dozens and dozens of examples if I wanted to really ponder on it).

Here it is: One evening, my daughter-in-law wanted a really, really good piece of carrot cake, so she headed down to the Potter's Wheel, which has decent coffee. You think of a specialty coffee shop as having good pastries/desserts. Anyway, when she got there, they were out of carrot cake. The gal behind the counter told her that they really only get it from Wal-Mart's bakery anyway!! Damn! Wal-Mart's pastries are not exactly top-notch. Can you say HYDROGENATED OILS & HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP?!?--ugh--not exactly top-notch! I, myself, had ordered a piece of carrot cake at Potter's Wheel once, long before my daughter-in-law had a craving for one. It was awful and I never ordered anymore desserts from this coffee shop. Now I knew why--Wal-mart repackaged! I'm sure the owner of Potter's Wheel would have been thrilled to know that their employee was informing the customers of this. Like I said, stupid beyond compare AND on so many levels.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 11 months ago

I would guess this is one reason why I've never had the desire to go to the Potter's Wheel...not to mention that their coffee is way overpriced.

Oh, to remember the days of Drake's bakery, and all the homemade stuff they that was heaven...closest you can get to that anymore is to be at Daylight Donuts right when they open up in the morning...

Well, for all of you who think the kiddies were just having fun in the filthy flood waters, and should be allowed to do that, let's hope none of them had any scratches, cuts, or sores on them...

75x55, I would always assume that parents who let their children play in flood waters are idiots. Would you let your children play in flood waters?

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