Breaking News

Area flooding strands drivers, forces evacuations

Updated: 2013-05-31T22:44:37Z

By ROBERT A. CRONKLETON and ZACH MURDOCK

The Kansas City Star

Thunderstorms with torrential rains moved across the Kansas City area early Friday morning, causing life-threatening flash flooding and evacuations.

Firefighters in Olathe rescued a woman after she tried to cross a water-covered bridge in the dark and was swept away by swift-moving floodwaters near the MidAmerica Nazarene University.

“She was washed downstream,” said Capt. Mike Hall, a spokesman for the Olathe Fire Department. “This was just before the sun came up so it was probably difficult for her to see the water across the roadway.”

The fire department used a boat to get to the woman, whose vehicle had become lodged against a tree in Indian Creek. She was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Because there was so much rain, Olathe had high water at several locations. Firefighters performed swift-water rescues and water assists at 13 locations.

Meanwhile in Kansas City, firefighters evacuated businesses along 103rd Street between State Line and Wornall Roads after Indian Creek came out of its banks in that area.

The evacuations started shortly before 9 a.m. There were no reports of injuries.

Several businesses in the strip mall on 103rd Street near Wornall Road were closed for the most of the morning because of high waters flooding the front parking lot.

The building wasn’t damaged, and owners were prepared for the potential flooding.

Employees at The Tiffany Agency took all phones, computers and electronics off the ground on Thursday in advance of the storms.

Heather Elkins and her boss, Mike Tiffany, arrived to work at the agency only to be turned away by police who had closed 103rd Street. Elkins said the office wasn’t damaged and Tiffany returned to reassemble the workplace around noon.

Coaches wasn’t damaged, either, manager Roberta Willis said.

The restaurant was evacuated in the morning and the electricity was turned off, but Coaches employees were allowed back in when the water receded. When the electricity was turned back on, Coaches was open at noon for the lunch hour.

Around 9:30 a.m., firefighters told Jasper Mirabile Jr. that the creek was rising about one foot every 20 minutes.

“I’ve seen it worse than this right here, but it’s been a long morning to say the least,” Mirabile said.

Power and gas were never turned off in the restaurant, and Mirabile and employees were allowed to remain in the building while it stayed open for business.

While the water was rising, Mayor Sly James, offered to provide any help and expressed his concern for the safety of Jasper’s employees and the building, Mirabile said.

“Not too many mayors would call a business like that,” Mirabile said.

At the nearby Molle Volkswagen dealership on 103rd Street, as much as a foot of water encroached much of the eastern end of the dealership's parking lot, sales consultant Ronie Green said.

Green said Indian Creek has flooded several times before, so the dealership was prepared. Employees moved more than 60 cars Thursday in anticipation of the rising water. None of the dealership’s cars were damaged Friday morning.

High water covered parts of trails that line Indian Creek. After some police officers left the area around 10:30 a.m. and lifted the evacuations, bystanders flocked to the trail, taking pictures and video of the roaring water.

At the height of the storm, emergency crews across the metropolitan area responded to numerous reports of drivers stuck in high water after they drove into water-covered roads.

The drivers became stranded by the fast rising and swift moving waters.

“That happens in extreme weather,” said Battalion Chief James Garrett, a spokesman with the Kansas City Fire Department. “People don’t pay attention to high water and they think their car is large enough to go through it.”

It’s extremely dangerous because a little amount of water can cause a car to float. Strong currents associated with flash flooding can quickly sweep a car downstream, Garrett said.

The dismal weather lingered into the early afternoon Friday, but the weekend is expected to be mostly sunny, with highs near 73 Saturday and 69 degrees Sunday.

The next chance of showers and thunderstorms doesn’t return to the area until Monday night.

To reach Robert A. Cronkleton, call 816-234-4261 or send email to bcronkleton@kcstar.com.

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