Hundreds Forced From Their Homes In Kansas And Oklahoma

Sunday, July 1st 2007, 9:35 pm
By: News On 6

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. (AP) _ Rivers swollen to record levels by days of heavy rain continued inching higher in parts of the southern Plains on Monday, keeping people from returning to ruined homes.

The Kansas National Guard was sent to help with a mandatory evacuation of Osawatomie, a small town in eastern Kansas and one of the hardest-hit communities in the region. The town evacuated 40 percent of its 4,600 residents after two rivers _ Pottawatomie Creek on the town's south flank and the Marais des Cygnes on the north _ rose out of their banks.

``I think the Marais des Cygnes will be OK,'' Mayor Philip Dudley said. ``I'm still concerned about Pottawatomie Creek. It's supposed to get over 49 feet on Monday.''

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius planned to survey the damage Monday.

Levees and dikes held after volunteers reinforced them with sandbags, but water pooling in low-lying areas overwhelmed pumps and flooded neighborhoods.

Retired welder Claude Blackmon, 65, stood in a street in southeast Osawatomie and pointed out the mobile home where he had lived for the two years since his wife died.

It wasn't easy to spot _ water covered all but the top 18 inches of the trailer.

Blackmon saved his riding lawnmower, his guns and some important papers. Everything else _ new appliances, family heirlooms _ was inundated.

None of it was insured. ``I don't know what I'm going to do,'' he said. ``I'm a little too old to start over now.''

``It's going to be a few days before we get some of the higher rivers to come down,'' said Maren Stoflet, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Pleasant Hill, Mo.

More rain was scattered over Texas and eastern Oklahoma on Sunday and Monday, the latest in nearly two weeks of storms that have inundated parts of Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma. Eleven deaths have been blamed on the storms and flooding in Texas, where two men are missing.

The overnight rainfall flooded a few roads in South Texas but there were no reports of stranded motorists or evacuations, authorities said.

During June, the weather service measured more than 11 inches of rain at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, about a half-inch shy of the 1928 record. The Texas town of Marble Falls, northwest of Austin, collected about 18 inches in one night last week.

At least 200 people were still displaced from their homes near the Brazos River in Texas' Parker County.

Although some flooding eased in northern and central Texas, officials cautioned that more was possible.

``It's a continuous up and down situation,'' said Shawn Scott, Parker County emergency management coordinator. ``This could be ongoing for the next few days.''

Oklahoma also has suffered flooding, with some of the worst on Sunday near Bartlesville, where the Caney River was more than 3 feet above flood stage.

Amtrak's Heartland Flyer passenger rail service between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth was halted Sunday because of flooding in north Texas, said Terry Angier, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Passengers were placed on buses.

Elsewhere in Kansas, officials in Independence and Coffeyville prepared for additional flooding along the Verdigris River, which already had reached record levels, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to open floodgates at the Elk City and Fall River Toronto Lake reservoirs upstream to ease pressure on their dams.

The Verdigris River at Independence rose to a record 52.4 feet Sunday morning, shattering the old mark of 47.6 feet and more than 20 feet above flood stage. In Coffeyville, the old record of 26.6 feet fell Saturday night as the river surged past 29 feet, more than 10 feet above flood stage.