August 7, 2013

Heavy rain expected for morning commute in Wichita metropolitan area

It’s going to be a rainy morning commute for the Wichita metropolitan area on Thursday.

It’s going to be a rainy morning commute for the Wichita metropolitan area on Thursday.

Very rainy.

“It definitely looks like a heavy rainfall for the (morning) commute,” said Paul Howerton, a meteorologist with the Wichita branch of the National Weather Service.

A widespread swath of about 1.5 inches is expected across a broad swath of south-central Kansas by noon Thursday, Howerton said. The heaviest rain can be expected from daybreak to late morning, he said, falling anywhere from Hutchinson to El Dorado and points south.

“It’s certainly going to aggravate anything we’ve got out there now,” Howerton said. “Most of that is going to go to runoff.”

Flooding has been particularly problematic in Reno County, where numerous residents who live along Cow Creek have been forced from their homes. Over the past three days, Sheriff Randy Henderson said, emergency services have had to conduct four rescues of people swept off roads by floodwaters.

Reno County will start arresting people who are getting into swift-moving floodwaters on suspicion of obstruction and criminal trespass, Henderson said.

“It is a very dangerous situation for individuals to be wading, swimming, canoeing … during extreme water events as we are seeing all across Reno County,” he said in a prepared statement.

The potential charges could result in any areas where authorities think members of the public are placing themselves in harm’s way, he said.

The decision to arrest violators is based on multiple factors: swiftly moving water, a lack of proper equipment and training for swift-water rescues by emergency responders, and debris or other hazards in the water.

In neighboring Harvey County, lightning strikes are partially to blame for causing confusion about how the recent storms have affected municipal services in Newton, officials said Wednesday.

“Newton’s water is safe to drink,” Suzanne Loomis, director of public works for the city of Newton, said via e-mail. “There has never been an issue with the quality of the drinking water due to the storm.”

Lightning did cause computer control problems at the water treatment and wastewater treatment plants, Loomis said, but those issues did not affect the city’s drinking water.

A flood watch is now in effect for more than 30 counties in central and southeast Kansas, with flood warnings in effect for all or parts of 14 counties in central, eastern and south-central Kansas – including the Wichita metropolitan area.

Wichita has received 5.86 inches of rain so far this month, Pearce said early Wednesday morning. The 5.83 inches of rain that fell in the first five days of August is the most since records began being kept in the city in 1888.

The 2.38 inches of rain that fell Aug. 4 set a record for that date, breaking the previous record of 1.41 set in 2005.

Wichita’s 29.37 inches of rain is more than 8 inches above normal for 2013, Pearce said.

Since June 1, 15.38 inches of rain has been recorded in Wichita. That’s 6.16 inches above normal.

Expect those numbers to climb through early Friday before a few days of dry weather finally arrive, forecasters say.

First thing Monday morning, city crews in Newton will begin picking up trees and limbs that fell during the recent severe weather, Loomis said. Residents should place their piles on the back of the curb on the edge of their lawn.

Residents should not pile limbs in the street, she said, since such piles pose a traffic hazard to motorists and pedestrians. The property owner could be subject to potential liability in the event of accidents.

“If the piles are placed in the street, they can also cause a problem with storm water drainage and add to flooding problems that may haunt the city again in light of forecasted storms later today and tomorrow,” Loomis said.

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