River Festival

City of Wichita closes flooded Arkansas River as Riverfest starts Friday

The city of Wichita has closed the Arkansas River as floodwaters threaten to cancel or postpone River Festival events.

“Attention river users: due to high flow rates and increased debris, we are experiencing dangerous water conditions,” city officials said in a tweet. “The river is closed until further notice. We are working with @Riverfest and will let the community know when river activities become safe.”

Riverfest starts Friday. Ann Keefer, Riverfest vice president of program development, said some river events will be postponed as officials wait and see what happens with the Ark.

“(Closing the river) will not impact the festival,” Keefer said. “There is still plenty of activities to do on dry land. And we have plenty of river out there to celebrate, but we won’t be on it this first weekend.”

The city did not provide any indication of when the river would be reopened. Many water events, including the stock tank races and cardboard regatta, may be postponed to the second weekend, Keefer said. But the jet ski races likely can’t be rescheduled because many of the competitors come from out of town.

She emphasized that safety is the primary concern with water events.

“We want to make sure its safe for everyone and clear of any debris coming down the river,” she said.

The river flooding comes as storms over the month dropped more than double the normal rainfall for May, the National Weather Service said. At Wichita’s Eisenhower National Airport, 4.57 inches is normal for May. This month, 12.64 inches of rain have fallen at the airport.

That is half an inch away from tying the record for the wettest May. In May 2008, 13.14 inches of rain was recorded at the weather service office at the airport. The record for the city’s wettest month of all time was set at 14.43 inches in June 1923.

More rain is in the forecast, NWS meteorologists say. The local prediction calls for at least a 30 percent chance for precipitation Saturday through Thursday.

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