Mission Hills signs use flashing lights to warn of flooding. But they aren’t working

In Mission Hills, a sign along a road with a light at the top is meant to warn drivers to stop and turn around.

If the light is flashing, the sign is meant to say, it is because the road ahead has been flooded by Brush Creek.

On Friday night, the light wasn’t flashing when emergency services performed a water rescue just past the sign. Crews pulled a woman from a car in high water.

The sign at 66th and Indian Lane is part of a larger, county-wide flood warning system.

Eleven signs like the one at 66th and Indian Lane in Mission Hills have been broken for about two weeks, according to city administrator Courtney Christensen.

The warnings are part of the StormWatch system, which is maintained by the City of Overland Park. The flashing light warnings in Mission Hills “aged out” Christensen said, and the company that developed the system no longer makes replacement parts for it.

Mission Hills and Merriam were the only cities that used the flashing light signs, according to Sean Reilly, spokesperson for the City of Overland Park. Merriam has updated their system.

“It’s a system that’s aged out and we weren’t enough aware of it to get anything fast enough to get it replaced before it just stopped working,” said Christensen, the Mission Hills city administrator.

Over the last six months, Christensen said, the existing infrastructure in Mission Hills has been failing because of water damage sustained over the last 15 years it has been in place. It officially went out two weeks ago when the city ran out of replacement parts.

Since January, Christensen said, Mission Hills has been working with Overland Park and the county to consider implementing a new system that places the infrastructure high up on poles and installs sensors to activate the lights.

Christensen said the new system should be fully installed by fall. Until then, she said, Mission Hills may place signs on the existing markers to warn drivers they are not working.

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Katie Bernard covers Kansas crime, cops and courts for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star in May of 2019. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.