- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2007

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. (AP) — Flooding worsened yesterday across parts of Kansas and Missouri, forcing more people from their homes, and meteorologists said it could be days before rivers return to normal after days of drenching rainfall on the Plains.

The Kansas National Guard was sent to help with a mandatory evacuation of Osawatomie, a town of 4,600, as the Pottawatomie Creek surged through a broken levee and workers struggled to reinforce a levee on the Marais des Cygne.

“They came and told us to leave at 6:30 this morning,” said Shanda Dehay, 17. “We weren’t able to get anything out. These clothes I’m wearing are my aunt’s.”

Despite the order, residents in rowboats surveyed the damage, which included homes that were half underwater and nearly submerged vehicles. The river was expected to reach 49 feet late yesterday, just shy of the record level 50.3 feet, said Maren Stoflet, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Pleasant Hill.

“It’s going to be a few days before we get some of the higher rivers to come down,” Miss Stoflet said, adding that the Marais des Cygne at La Cygne and Osawatomie might not begin receding until late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Storms across the southern Plains have claimed 11 lives in Texas since more than a week ago, and two Texans are missing. That state has gotten some of the worst of the lingering storm system, with the weather service measuring more than 11 inches of rain in June at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, about a half-inch shy of the 1928 record. The town of Marble Falls collected about 18 inches in one night last week.

Kansas officials were also preparing for additional flooding at Independence and Coffeyville along the Verdigris River, which already had reached record levels, as the Army Corps of Engineers planned to open floodgates at the Elk City and Fall River Toronto Lake reservoirs upstream.

The Verdigris River at Independence rose to a record 52.4 feet Sunday morning, shattering the old mark of 47.6 feet and more than 20 feet above flood stage. The Neosho River was expected to set a record late yesterday, cresting at 40.5 feet at Erie in Neosho County, where officials had already evacuated residents. Flood stage is 29 feet.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” said Robb Lawson, a weather service meteorologist in Wichita.

In Missouri, the Little Osage and Marmeton rivers were well above flood stage and still rising in some spots Sunday, said Jim Taggart, a weather service hydrologist in Springfield. Numerous roads were closed in southwest Missouri. Highways across wide areas of Oklahoma also remained closed yesterday because of flood damage.

Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer passenger rail system between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth was halted yesterday because of flooding in northern Texas, and passengers were bused instead, said Terry Angier, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

In northern Texas, hundreds of residents near the overflowing Wichita and Brazos rivers remained evacuated from their homes yesterday, uncertain of when they could return.

Some residents had been allowed to return Saturday, but hours later, authorities encouraged them to seek higher ground as water released from floodgates on upstream dams moved downstream, said Shawn Scott, Parker County emergency management coordinator.

The Brazos River was expected to crest early today before falling below flood stage during the day, Parker County spokesman Joel Kertok said. Wichita Falls officials had urged residents of low-lying areas to leave Friday and weren’t sure when they could return because of concerns about contaminants in the water, city spokesman Barry Levy said.

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