A steady diet of rain has led to flooding in south central Kansas, including Harvey County.
Gov. Laura Kelly on Thursday proclaimed a state declaration of emergency because of severe storms and flooding for the following counties: Barber, Chase, Clark, Cowley, Geary, Greenwood, Harvey, Marion, Meade, Neosho, Osage, Ottawa, Reno, Rice and Sumner.
Harvey County Commissioner Chip Westfall signed an emergency declaration for Harvey County earlier in the week.
Halstead closed all of the floodgates Thursday between itself and the Little Arkansas River, which hit 27 feet that morning. Flood stage is 25 feet.
According to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, one reporter in Harvey County recorded 4.05 inches of rain in 24 hours, ending at 7 a.m. Wednesday. This week, Newton saw 4.01 inches of rain since Monday, while McClains recorded 5.03 inches.
The river was expected to crest on Friday and set a new record of 27.9 feet. Forecasters decreased that to 27.11 feet in later projections.
The river at Halstead had reached 27 feet by 9 a.m. Thursday. It was projected to crest at 27.11 feet — below the record of 27.2 forecasters previously said might be broken with this flood — by late afternoon Thursday, then fluctuate slightly up and down.
At 19 feet, Halstead closes the Halstead Road gate. At 20 feet it closes the railroad gate, and at 22 feet it closes the Main Street gate.
The record crest was 27.2 feet on May 25, 2007.
Harvey County posted 44 road closures between May 7 and 9. US-50 highway was covered by water and listed as closed from Newton to Hutchinson.
The Kansas Department of Transportation has closed US-50 because of flooding from the Little Arkansas River near Halstead before, according to area superintendent Tom McCartney, who has worked for KDOT for 25 years. But it’s the first time he recalls the entire route being shut down.
“Anytime we have water running over the highway, we don’t feel it’s safe for the public to cross the road,” said Dave Bohnenblust, district maintenance engineer in Hutchinson.
Even after floodwaters recede, engineers will have to inspect the roadways to make sure there is no damage before reopening them to traffic, Bohnenblust said.
K-89 highway, which goes from US-50 to Halstead, is also closed.
“It’s not even crested yet,” McCartney said. “It continues to come down from the north. I’d expect it to be closed a least a couple of days, but we don’t really know."
Amtrak passengers on the Southwest Chief, meanwhile, have also been forced into alternate plans because of flooding on its route through Harvey County, according to a posting by the railroad.
The Hutchinson News contributed to this report.