Gov. Brownback issues disaster declaration for 44 Kansas counties

TOPEKA — As damage continues to mount from flooding in northeast, southeast and south-central Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday issued a disaster declaration covering 44 of the state’s 105 counties.

Brownback signed the declaration after meeting with National Guard Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli and issued a personal appeal to Kansans to be prepared, as low-lying areas are already flooding and the risk was expected to worsen from additional rainfall Friday.

“We’re in flood stage in multiple sets of reservoirs now, particularly in southeast Kansas, and we continue to get rain,” Brownback said. “We’re doing the things that we need to do (at the state level) and will continue to.

“But I’m asking people if they would to just take extra caution not to get caught in some of these flood waters.”

Sedgwick County was not included in the disaster proclamation, but almost all the neighboring counties are, including Butler, Reno, Harvey, Cowley, Harper and Sumner.

In addition to flooding, the state has also taken damage from tornadoes, wind, hail and lightning that have accompanied the storms of the past few weeks. He said recorded damage at this point is slightly less than half the $4.2 million Kansas needs to document statewide to qualify for federal relief.

But counties are still reporting in and others could see more damage done as the rain continues and the flooding runs its course. He said it will be two to three weeks before the full extent of the damage is known.

“What we don’t know is what that cascading effect in terms of additional rainfall and the impact it might have on infrastructure,” Tafanelli said. “What we’ve proposed is that we’ll do a declaration and then work with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to extend over the next 30 days if they’ll approve it, to give us an ability to do those assessments and work with those counties.”

He said the northeast border counties and a swath from southeast to south-central area of the state have seen the most damage, including a large sinkhole that opened up in Marion overnight Thursday.

Some state parks around reservoirs have been hit hard by the flooding, said department spokesman Ron Kaufman.

The Fall River, Cross Timbers/Toronto Reservoir and Elk City state parks have stopped reserving campsites for the time being and only a few high-ground sites are open, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Most of those campgrounds’ cabins have escaped damage but are cut off by flooded roads, he said.

“Given that those three reservoirs are on the Verdigris River, which flows into Oklahoma and is full, we expect the Corps of Engineers to only slowly release water from the reservoirs,” he said. “As a result, the flooding in our affected state parks could persist for several weeks.”

El Dorado Lake has experienced only minimal flooding, he said.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

Counties covered in the disaster declaration

Allen, Anderson, Barton, Butler, Chase, Cheyenne, Cherokee, Clay, Coffey, Cowley, Doniphan, Edwards, Elk, Gray, Franklin, Greenwood, Harper, Harvey, Haskell, Hodgeman, Jefferson, Labette, Leavenworth, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, McPherson, Marion, Meade, Miami, Nemaha, Osage, Rawlins, Reno, Rice, Republic, Saline, Sherman, Stafford, Seward, Stevens, Sumner, Wabaunsee, Washington.