Archive for Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kansas floods

August 25, 2011

With all the rain we have had lately, we thought it was unusual to have so much rain in July and August. It reminded me of the rains we had in 1951 when I was working in the Fairfax District. The rains that started in Hays flooded every town along the Kansas River all the way to Kansas City. That included the Neosho, Marais Des Cygnes and Verdigris rivers in Kansas. Some of them were nine feet above flood stage.

At that time we were living in Kansas City, Kan., and the plant that I worked in had 10 feet of water. We were shut down for two weeks. I can remember standing on the bluffs overlooking the stockyards and the water was at the tops of the buildings. That area never fully recovered from this devastation. The Kansas River backing up the Missouri River made the river change course and cut a new channel in St. Joseph, Mo., area. This flood caused the most damage in Kansas City. Our building in Fairfax was not in the direct current, but the water came from a back up in the sewer system. The cleanup was a big job. The walls were covered with oil, which came from nearby Phillips Petroleum Company.

After the 1951 flood a series of levees and reservoirs were constructed throughout eastern Kansas. This new network of flood control structures helped to prevent widespread damage when the region was hit later by the flood of 1993.

In doing research now, I have found that the three major floods in Kansas occurred about 60 years apart. The largest flood in the Kansas City area was in 1844. The next one was in 1903, then in 1951. The 1993 and 2011 floods came from the Missouri River and would have been more devastating had there not been dams built upstream. There are six major Missouri River Dams that help control the water in our area. I hate to think what would have happened to Leavenworth and Kansas City had they not built the dams.

I don’t remember the water level here staying at the flood stage for this many weeks, but it must be because of the amount of water that is released upstream. The Corps of Engineers have a big job. As bad as it is, we can be thankful it isn’t worse.

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