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Archive for Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Heightened river levels signify potential end to drought

Mark Maxwell, plant manager at Bowersock Mills and Power, lowers a step bridge to check the dam on Tuesday as heavy water pours over it. The Kansas River’s high level is a sign of plentiful rainfall that is helping to ease drought conditions.

Mark Maxwell, plant manager at Bowersock Mills and Power, lowers a step bridge to check the dam on Tuesday as heavy water pours over it. The Kansas River’s high level is a sign of plentiful rainfall that is helping to ease drought conditions.

August 6, 2013

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Judging by the Kansas River, you would have to say the drought is over in the Lawrence area.

Since Sunday, the Kansas River has been discharging more than 20,000 cubic feet of water per second at Lawrence, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, though it dipped below that number this afternoon. To put that in perspective, the Friends of the Kaw recommends that novices and beginners only float when the river is under 5,000 cubic feet per second.

"We're not at flood stage, but we're certainly getting close," said Laura Calwell, riverkeeper for Friends of the Kaw, who says that people should stay off the river when it's this high. "Unless we get more rain, though, it'll go down pretty quickly."

Heavy rainfall in the region of late has increased the river's discharge from 1,500 cubic feet per second a week ago (that number was just 600 in the spring). However, it's probably too soon to say the dry conditions are a thing of the past, as the area has a lot of ground to make up from last year's severe lack of precipitation.

"What's really helped has been the cooler temperatures this summer, and the localized heavy rainfall," said Mark Svoboda, climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb. "While it's relatively better, particularly compared to the western part of the state, we haven't totally erased the deficits (from 2012)."

The problem, he added, is that we're coming into what is generally a drier time of year and the rains haven't been enough to make up for the dearth of moisture from last year's drought. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor's latest report, released last week, Douglas County is still in the midst of a moderate drought. However, parts of southeast and north-central Kansas, are now considered normal, compared to a year ago, when the entire state was in a severe drought.

Signs are pointing in a positive direction locally. The first week of August has been wetter than normal in much of Douglas County, some of which has gotten 2-3 inches over the past seven days, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasts show as much as 2.5 inches of rain the remainder of the week in Lawrence. The U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook predicts that Douglas County will be out of the drought this month.

Comments

windjammer 8 months, 2 weeks ago

What is flood stage? Are you talking upstream from the dam or downstream? Upstream the level of the water has been mid 13 feet and hasn't changed for ten months even with all the rain. It is flowing now but the river is no higher. Wait till the flow is over and you will see tremendous erosion from the flow because of the water level since the new plant has been up and running. Yesterday it was at 13 feet but alot of water was going over the dam.

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