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Kansas Flash Floods Force Evacuations, Close Schools & Highways

Emergency management officials began evacuating people from an area about 5 miles west of Manhattan about 5 a.m., according to a report by the Associated Press.

by Chance Swaim and Dion Lefler, The Wichita Eagle / May 8, 2019
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

(TNS) — People were evacuated from their homes and schools were closed or delayed Wednesday after Kansas was hit with back-to-back thunderstorms.

The Kansas Turnpike was also closed south of Wellington to the Oklahoma border Wednesday morning.

Emergency management officials began evacuating people from an area about 5 miles west of Manhattan about 5 a.m., according to a report by the Associated Press.

Evacuations started in the Wichita area early Wednesday. The Weather Channel reported on its Twitter account that evacuations were ongoing in parts of Peabody and Wellington before 6 a.m. Peabody is in Marion County, about 40 miles north of Wichita. Wellington is in Sumner County, about 35 miles south of Wichita.

Sedgwick County's emergency workers were out in force Tuesday night dealing with widespread and dangerous flooding — and preparing for the next round expected to start Wednesday night.
"We did have most of our field personnel out all night," barricading flooded roads, said county Public Works Director David Spears.

"The hardest-hit areas were around Andale and then also down around Mulvane and Derby," he said. "Greenwich Road between 111th and 119th, parts of it were underwater by five feet, so it's a serious situation out there. This is not just a little bit of water over the road, it's a lot."
Mulvane Fire Department reported nine cars flooded out overnight.

Mulvane and county personnel teamed up on a swift-water rescue of a motorist who drove into running water and was swept 200 yards downstream before her car was stopped by a tree.
"I'm thankful to say that person was rescued successfully," said Cody Charvat of Sedgwick County Emergency Management.

"Mulvane indicated that they do have some residents surrounded by water and so they're walking in or boating in to assist them but nothing that's life threatening at this point," Charvat said.

Butler County, east of Sedgwick County, was placed under a Flash Flood Emergency designation late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, said Keri Korthals of Butler County Emergency Management. That's the highest level of flash flood warning by the National Weather Service.

Korthals said some rain gauges in Butler County collected over 8 inches of rain Tuesday night. She said no one to her knowledge had needed rescued from their homes, but notifications were sent out that people might get trapped by flooding.

Korthals said much of the flash flooding in the county was receding by 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. But officials were closely monitoring the rivers and streams, especially the Whitewater River near Augusta.

"We've got to watch the river because we're running out of places for it to go," Korthals said.
After multiple days of heavy rain, she said the grounds are "completely saturated."

Flash flooding in Augusta and Rose Hill, both east of Wichita in Butler County, forced road and school closures.

Schools that are closed Wednesday include Augusta USD 402, Belle Plaine USD 357, Bluestem USD 205, Chase County USD 284, Clearwater USD 264, Douglass Public Schools USD 396, Mulvane USD 263, Oxford USD 358, Rose Hill USD 394, South Haven USD 509, Wellington USD 353.

With more heavy rain forecast Thursday, officials were bracing for what could be a long weekend of flooding.

"We'll leave the barricades out and if the prediction of more rain is right, we'll be out all night again tonight and maybe barricading more roads," Spears said.

Flood warnings remain in effect in Sedgwick County through Thursday night, including the Cowskin Creek in west Wichita, the Ninnescah River near Peck.

The Arkansas River has a flood warning until this weekend throughout Sedgwick County.

Sections of major highways throughout the state were closed Wednesday. US-50 from Florence in Marion County to Highway 150, just south of Elmdale in Chase County, is expected to be closed through Friday because of flooding, according to KanDrive, which monitors road conditions in the state.

US 77 south of US 54 in Augusta was closed to Douglass. US-81 was closed through Wellington.

Highway 177 from Strong City to Cotton Wood Falls in Chase Count was closed due to water over the road. Highway 99 north of Emporia to the Kansas Turnpike was closed Wednesday morning.
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