- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 29, 2015

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) - Heavy rain has caused flooding in southeast Kansas, forcing hundreds from their homes and the closure of several roadways.

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning Tuesday for the Spring River, which was at about 30 feet, or 19 feet above flood stage. The river was expected to continue falling below flood stage by Wednesday afternoon, but water was expected to hit a couple highways in the area, the weather service said.

Cherokee County officials said several county roadways and bridges were closed because of flooding.

Sheriff David Groves said Tuesday that crews have conducted 22 water rescues in the last few days, but no major injuries were reported. He said about 200 households in the county had evacuated, including about 80 households in Baxter Springs, a town of about 4,000 residents near the Oklahoma border that was hit by an EF-2 tornado in April 2014. The tornado damaged 100 homes and 12 businesses.

Groves said about eight Baxter Springs homes were submerged Tuesday, with barely a roof visible.

“It’s difficult to see that, and it’s going to be difficult for residents to cope with that and go forward,” Groves said.

He said it was unclear when residents would be allowed back into their homes but that authorities were expecting to be able to access some of the flooded areas in the county to begin assessing damage as early as Wednesday.

Ben Bauman, spokesman for the Kansas Adjutant General’s Office, said Tuesday that a handful of Cherokee County residents had to leave their homes because of the rising water, but he said the county had not requested any assistance from the state.

Earlier, heavy winds and rain caused a passenger plane to run off the taxiway at the Wichita airport late Sunday. Allegiant Air said in an email Tuesday that the plane was heading to Las Vegas carrying about 167 people at about midnight Sunday when high winds forced the aircraft off the taxiway. The airline said part of the plane’s landing gear wound up off the tarmac. No injuries were reported.

The airline said it sent another plane to take the passengers to Las Vegas the next night.

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