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Endless rain swamps KC

DATE OF EVENT: Saturday, July 10, 1993

DATE PUBLISHED: Sunday, July 11, 1993, in The Kansas City Star

Editor’s note: Heavy summer rain in 1993 spawned floods of historic levels in the Missouri Valley region. In Kansas City, high water swamped low-lying neighborhoods and forced evacuations, but overall the damage was far worse elsewhere across the state. When the Mississippi and Missouri rivers finally crested at St. Louis on Aug. 2, Missouri had 24 flood-related deaths.

The great flood of 1993 became personal for Kansas City early Saturday.

Up to 10 inches of rain fell over parts of the area, pushing creeks and rivers out of their banks, causing strained storm sewers to overflow and, ultimately, submerging businesses in all parts of the city.

And even as cleanup began in some parts of the area floodwaters were rising in others and people glanced skyward in apprehension of more rain. Forecasters said more rain was likely today …

The Industrial West Bottoms and Southwest Boulevard business districts were the worst hit by the flooding: Several feet of water collected in Kemper Arena, and water covered the first floor of many Southwest Boulevard restaurants, manufacturing plants and other businesses.

But no part of the metropolitan area was spared. Businesses in the 103rd and Wornall area were swamped for the third time in less than a decade. Homes were evacuated in Platte, Clay and Jackson counties in Missouri and Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties in Kansas. Homes in Johnson County also were damaged. …

By 6 p.m., the river had risen to 34 feet and was expected to crest at midnight Saturday at 36 feet. Flood level is 28 feet. In 1990, the river reached 43 feet.

Water, garbage and other debris were running over the bridge on Stadium Drive and officials had shut it down. The stench of diesel fuel filled the air. …

The old-timers around Southwest Boulevard called it the worst flood since 1951.

Dozens of the district’s restaurants, warehouses and light industrial plants sat Saturday morning in a brown lake as deep as 8 feet. Water from Turkey Creek reached the second floor of some buildings. Some parked cars that had been carried for blocks by the water couldn’t be seen until the flood receded in the afternoon.

“It’s got to be 8 feet deep in spots,” said Kansas City firefighter Mark Williams, standing at the edge of the flowing water. …

Rescuers in boats began about 5:30 a.m. to ferry to safety several workers from Ponak’s and Margarita’s as floodwaters invaded the ground floors of the Southwest Boulevard restaurants. A security guard was rescued from a nearby business. …

Police, calling the flood the worst in the county in several years, had to rescue several residents and block submerged streets throughout (Johnson) county. Even homeowners far from flooded areas awoke to lakes in their basements. …

“This was the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Overland Park Mayor Ed Eilert as he surveyed the flooding along 103rd Street, where intersections at Lowell Avenue and Conser and Marty streets had turned into rivers.

Among other areas hardest hit were 151st Street and Kenneth Road and Switzer Road from College Boulevard to 119th Street, said Overland Park Police Lt. Steve Smith …

It was a close call on the Country Club Plaza. An arcing trail of debris 5 feet from the front door of Nicholas Luggage & Gifts, 452 Ward Parkway, illustrated just how close.

Motorists also were inconvenienced because traffic along Ward Parkway from J.C. Nichols Parkway on the east to 55th Street on the southwest was closed until 10:15 a.m.

By midmorning Saturday, about 4 feet of water was standing in Kemper Arena and the American Royal Building, said Battalion Chief David Bruns. …

Hundreds of persons at two Kansas City, Kan., mobile home parks were evacuated by Kansas Army National Guard troops and city emergency workers Saturday after the Kaw River overflowed its banks and inundated the low-lying area near 59th Street and Kaw Drive. …

Indian Creek raged out of its banks about 8:30 a.m. Saturday in Watts Mill. Police barricaded 103rd Street between State Line and Wornall roads as the creek transformed the pavement into a canal. Muddy waves rolled through the 103rd Square shopping center.

Hundreds of sightseers clogged nearby streets, jockeying with video cameras for a view of the violent waves crashing against trees and telephone poles. Some waded in knee-deep for a better look.

Marvin Harrenstien sat on a curb across the street as water poured into his business, American Rare Coin and Jewelry Exchange. He had worked about three hours stacking merchandise on counters.

“I said I was moving after the flood in ’90,” Harrenstien said. “But I couldn’t find a good place to move to. Now it looks like I waited too long.”

The heavy rains pushed Missouri River flood waters further into Parkville, creating a flurry of activity as people scurried for higher ground. …

Farmers selling their produce in the city’s market were evacuated from their usual location early Saturday morning to higher ground about a block away at Main and Mill streets. Within an hour the evacuated site and a road leading to it were under water.

Since 11:30 a.m. Saturday, more than 350 volunteers had filled more than 12,000 bags with more than 400 tons of sand. …

Evacuation started about 3 p.m. after water topped the tracks and broke through a stormwater drainage tube, said Steve Cazzell, a spokesman for the Fishing River Fire Protection District.


This story was written by staff writer A. Scharnhorst with information from staff writers Eric Adler, Rick Alm, Donald Bradley, Karen Dillon, James C. Fitzpatrick, Kelly Garbus, Christi L. Gipson, Bill Graham, Helen Gray, Vince Magers, Rick Montgomery, Steve Nicely, John North, Joe Stephens, Jim Sullinger, Kristin Vaughan and Hiram Williams.
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