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Heavy rains kill at least two and leave path of destruction

Updated: 2013-08-09T17:51:42Z

From Staff and News Services

If you think August has been damp in Kansas City, take a gander to the south.

Large swaths of Kansas and Missouri, already soaked with recent rains that have killed at least two people, were due for more storms overnight before the system was expected to move into Illinois today. Storms have damaged homes, schools and businesses but also helped replenish parched reservoirs.

The wet weather pattern, unusual for early August, largely has spared the Kansas City area, although we have had greater-than-normal precipitation.

Heavy downpours failed to materialize here because a sinking air mass left no place for rain to develop, said Mike July, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill. That also has helped create mild temperatures.

“What is unusual is that it’s happening here in the dead of summer,” July said. “It’s not too often we get high temperatures in the low 70s in the first week or two of August. We also have a northeast wind, which you don’t see too often in our area.”

It remains humid, however, because of the rain that has fallen. So far, August precipitation is 1 inch above normal at Kansas City International Airport and nearly an inch and a half above normal at Johnson County Executive Airport.

But that’s nothing, compared to some of our neighbors.

Missouri

In southwest Missouri, a woman died early Thursday near Jane when water from normally dry Brush Creek suddenly overwhelmed Missouri 90, flooding the road up to 6 feet deep and sweeping away her car. Her name was not released Thursday.

Meanwhile, authorities in the south-central Missouri town of Waynesville continued to search for 23-year-old Jessica D. Lee, whose car got caught in a flash flood early Tuesday. The body of her 4-year-old son, Elyjah, was found Tuesday, hours after his mother made a distress call from her cellphone.

Missouri has gotten the worst of the recent storms. Some gauges near Waynesville recorded 15 inches of rain in a two-day period. One-day totals of 6 inches or more were common across the southern part of the state.

Storms hit the Branson area especially hard early Thursday. At least 100 homes and businesses in Hollister, right next to Branson, were damaged when Turkey Creek flooded. Taney County’s assistant emergency management director, Melissa Duckworth, said 26 people had to be rescued by boat, mostly from two mobile home parks. Another 50 evacuated on their own.

Boats also were brought in to rescue 15 campers who were spending the night on an Elk River island near the McDonald County town of Noel. The county boat rescuing them broke down, and the rescuers themselves had to be saved by a boat from the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Two women were rescued from their homes in Powell.

Interstate 44 near Jerome in south-central Missouri reopened Thursday after floodwaters receded, but dozens of other roadways were closed in southern Missouri.

Kansas

Since the storms began Sunday, hundreds of Kansas homes have been damaged, mostly by water in basements and sewage backups, said Megan Hammersmith, director of the Central Kansas Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Up to 6 inches of rain fell early Thursday in the center of the state.

In Wichita, the National Weather Service reported 1.59 inches in about an hour before dawn Thursday, creating widespread street flooding and trapping vehicles in high water.

In Argonia, southwest of Wichita in Sumner County, persistent showers and thunderstorms were sabotaging recovery efforts so substantially that the start of the school year has been pushed back to after Labor Day. Consecutive storms already had blown off roofs and soaked classrooms in two school buildings and caused an estimated $886,000 in damage.

“I hate rain,” Argonia Superintendent Julie Dolley said.

Yet to the delight of boaters, Cheney Reservoir, which had been below 60 percent full early this year, was overflowing its banks Thursday morning west of Wichita.

Up in Harvey County, the city of Halstead planned to go ahead with its annual Old Settlers Day celebrations this weekend — although the event will be different from any in recent memory.

“Most of our activity’s down in Riverside Park,” Halstead City Administrator J.R. Hatfield said. “But since Riverside Park is about 4 feet under water right now …”

Many of the activities have been moved inside the levy that is shielding Halstead from the Little Arkansas, and tonight’s rodeo has been moved to the other side of town.

“It’s been here 126 years,” Hatfield said of the annual event, “so I don’t think we’re going to let a little rain stop it.”

In Reno County, officials were closely watching Cow Creek, which had finally started to drop a little late Wednesday. Hutchinson received 1.1 inches overnight into Thursday morning, Emergency Management Director Bill Guy said.

“I’m hoping it won’t be too much” of an increase in water levels, he said. “If it keeps rising, we’re going to have some serious home damage.”

Minor flooding continued along the banks of the Arkansas River, the Little Arkansas River as well as the Whitewater, Verdigris and Neosho rivers.

Matt Campbell of The Star, Stan Finger of The Wichita Eagle and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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