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Archive for Sunday, July 15, 2007

Archives curator helps salvage memories from flood

July 15, 2007

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Brenda Day intended to go back to work July 2 after taking a week off. The flood that swamped much of Franklin County from 17 inches of rain changed her mind.

"It came up faster and higher than I've ever seen in 40 years on the Pottawatomie Creek," said Day, who lives in Lane and is the curator of the Baker University Archives in addition to other historical work. "We had 17 inches of rain in our gauge. I woke up (July 1) just feeling the water.

"There was the Pottawatomie and Mosquito creeks 20 feet away."

Lane, a berg midway between Ottawa to the west and Osawatomie to the east, which were both hit hard, was inundated with the water from the two creeks that converge there. Day had taken the week before off after a busy month of historical events - Black Jack Battlefield's 101st anniversary and Chautauqua Days - as well as her involvement in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Her plan was to return to Baker and the Old Castle Museum, but she was surrounded by water and unwanted visitors.

"Monday when I started coming to work, which wasn't going to happen, there was something on my doorstep I hit with my foot. It was a snake," she said. "He was trying to come in. I said, 'I don't think so.'"

There were other oddities. Day had been dumping her rain gauge all along with the rain that had started June 27, which was a Wednesday. It just kept coming. The following weekend - after that total of 17 inches had fallen - was when it was at its worst. The creeks rose fast.

"I heard something that I couldn't figure out what it was. I'd never heard it before," Day said. "The water came up so fast that the raccoons were trapped in the trees. The raccoons were squalling at each other. Weird stuff like that."

It didn't look good with much of the town under water and it inching toward her home. But on Sunday there was suddenly a dramatic improvement.

"It started receding," she said. "It just all of a sudden went down."

Neighbors thought something bad must have happened down river, and it had.

The levees around Osawatomie had been breached, which gave the backed-up water from the creeks in Lane a place to go.

"If it hadn't been for that, Lane would have been lost," she said.

While good news for her, it wasn't for the many people who had already felt the flood's wrath in Lane and the many people she knows in Osawatomie.

"That was the sad thing. So many people lost everything," Day said. "I tried to help as much as I could. I washed quilts all weekend and had photos strung up all over the place."

Day is an expert on the restoration of history. That's what she found herself doing. She made copies of all the information she had regarding salvaging personal items and posted them around Lane and Osawatomie, along with her phone number for additional information or help.

She had several calls and also went around Lane looking at places that had been hit. One was a house that was full of antiques. They're ruined antiques now.

Day didn't suffer that misfortune.

"We were very lucky," she said. "That's what compelled me to help."

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