Kansas students face flash flood woes

It took freshman Adam Vaughn 36 hours to clean up the basement of his church when it flooded last year.

Vaughn helped his mother soak up the rain water that stood in the First United Methodist Church in Garnett.

“It didn’t do much damage as far as mold. “It might have molded under the carpet.”

For this reason, Vaughn takes floods seriously. Last month, Garnett was under a flash flood watch. Vaughn, of course, was hoping for the best and hanging out on high ground in Baldwin City.

“She was telling me that it was starting to flood again and they were cleaning it up,” he said.

The church didn’t flood badly this time, though. Instead, Lake Garnett overflowed onto the surrounding road – pouring over fresh flowers and the remains of summer grass.

“They made the school buses stop,” Vaughn said. “They were afraid the buses would try to drive across the water.”

Jared Leighton, meteorologist intern at the National Weather Service office stationed in Topeka, said all of its 22 county warning areas were under flood watch following the Sept. 12 rainstorm – including Anderson County, which is where Vaughn is from.

“We had every county in our (county warning areas) under flood watch during our September rain event, which we had some areas that got 8 inches of rain,” Leighton said.”All of those are between Sept. 12 on, until the flooding subsided from the event.”

State Climatologist Mary Knapp said this rainfall is unusual for the state and bears similarities to the flood of 1993 – a season of widespread flooding.

“What we’ve got this year is an unusually wet year in the eastern part of the state and unusually dry in the western areas, although the flooding has been kind of all over the place,” she said.

Knapp said the difference between that flood and the flooding that the state has experienced this year is mostly the energy of the rainfall.

“You can have two different kinds of flooding,” Knapp said. “There’s flash flooding, which can occur with as little as an inch of rain if it comes quickly enough.”

The other type of flooding, Knapp said, is more steady, gradual rain that beats down on rivers and lakes until eventually the water spills over.

“If you look at July in 1993, we had over 17 inches of rain,” Knapp said. “East-central Kansas had a combination of both kinds of flooding. We had a lot of rain in early May, which caused river rises. The flooding was not extensive, but it was there. Then we had really intense rain events in August, so flash flooding occurred.”

Ottawa native Laura Snider is no stranger to floods. She was around for last year’s flood, which managed to consume an entire bridge.

“We couldn’t get past the top of the bridge because they had blocked the bridge and stuff,” Snider, who is a freshman at Baker, said. “We had to close it down, which never happens.”

The Marais des Cygnes River spilled over onto the bridge, which residents coined the Main Street Bridge, twice last summer.

Snider was on her way out of town for a family vacation when the flood hit.

“We were headed out in the morning, and we couldn’t even get out to the highway,” she said.

Similarly, streets are often blocked off in Garnett whenever water levels reach peak highs.

During major rainstorms, Vaughn and his mother prepare for the worst.

“I probably would expect it to flood again, but they’d be on it immediately,” Vaughn said.

And when it does flood, Vaughn cleans up the dirt and mud that is left behind.