Reno County residents brace for worst flooding in a decade

Posted: Updated:
Reno County roads partially overrun with water on Monday are now completely impassable. Reno County roads partially overrun with water on Monday are now completely impassable.
Fields along the Cow Creek are turning into ponds as the creek overflows its banks. Fields along the Cow Creek are turning into ponds as the creek overflows its banks.
Residents along the Cow Creek remember how bad the 2007 flooding was. Residents along the Cow Creek remember how bad the 2007 flooding was.
The Cow Creek crossed into flood stage overnight Monday to Tuesday.  It's expected to crest Saturday around 12.4 feet. The Cow Creek crossed into flood stage overnight Monday to Tuesday. It's expected to crest Saturday around 12.4 feet.
RENO COUNTY, Kan. (KAKE) -

“I remember standing up and leaning way out over and looking and just seeing the water bubble ‘cause it was raining,” said Rachel Hawkinson.  She was a pre-schooler the last time the Cow Creek brought floodwaters right up to her family’s front porch on the Kansas Bible Camp grounds.

In Reno County the Cow Creek is on the rise toward what could be the worst flooding in the county since 2007.  The county is warning residents along the flood path to make plans to get out now, before the flood reaches homes.

The Cow Creek started overflowing its banks overnight Monday to Tuesday and is still rising.  Reno County issued a local disaster declaration Tuesday morning, telling residents along the creek to get ready to get out and warning drivers to stay off flooded streets.

Flooded roadway closures here

“It puts our emergency operation plan into effect,” said Adam Weishaar, director of Reno County Emergency Management.  “We start tracking costs. And it really gives us a little more pliability so we can block off roads, we can stop people from entering an area of disaster.  It makes all non-navigable bodies of water off limits to the public.”

Weishaar doesn’t expect the creek to crest until Saturday and says the expected crest of 12.4 feet will be the highest the creek has risen since the floods of 2007, when it reached 12.8 feet.  Since then, the City of Hutchinson and Reno County have done a lot of work along the creek to make floods less dangerous to homes and people in the area.

“They’ve cleared out some areas, put in some new culverts, stuff like that,” he said.  “The water flows through a whole lot better.  And we’re hoping there won’t be a flood like 2007.  But at this point we’re just kind of going to watch and see what actually occurs.”

Folks who live along the creek are keeping a close eye on it as it keeps getting deeper.  Many remember how bad the flooding got eleven years ago.

“I remember asking my mom, ‘Is our house going to float away?’” Rachel Hawkinson laughed. 

She and her family live at the Kansas Bible Camp along the Cow Creek northwest of Hutchinson.  She says one memory sticks out from all the rest.

“Mostly it’s just the smell afterwards,” she said.  “It stinks so bad.”

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While the water is already creeping into their front yard, Rachel says she doesn’t expect things to get as bad as she remembers last time.

“We were canoeing all around and it was so weird.  It was like the camp is one giant pool.  It’s not just the swimming pool anymore.  It’s everywhere,” she said.

Because of the uncertainty of just what to expect from the creek this time around, Weishaar is warning families like Hawkinson’s to have a plan now, decide before the flood waters surround them if they’re going to evacuate or stay home.

“If they’re going to stay know that they’re going to probably be on their own for a couple three day,"  Weishaar explained.  “Our first responders don’t need to risk their lives to go out and respond to these residences for situations that are not life threatening.  Our first responders will go out if there’s a life safety concern. But, other than that, these individuals or these residents are going to be on their own.”

Rachel says she and her family have already thought about that.

“It’s not supposed to get that high,” she said.  “If we do get evacuated we know where we’re going to go.”

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