Kansas Turnpike reopens south of Wellington after flooding

Posted: Updated:
Nolan Roth (KAKE) Nolan Roth (KAKE)
WICHITA, Kan. (AP/KAKE) -

The latest on flooding and road closures in parts of Kansas:

Friday:

A stretch of the Kansas Turnpike has reopened near the Oklahoma border after a flooding creek inundated the roadway.

The Kansas Turnpike Authorities said in a tweet Thursday night that, "The first 24 hours belonged to Mother Nature; the second 24 hours belonged to us." The tweet included a video of the flooding and crews working to repair the toll road, which had been closed south of the exit in Wellington.

The area flooded Wednesday when up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain fell across parts of the state in just 24 hours. Flooding also forced evacuations and school closures. Wellington is about 30 miles south of Wichita.

Highway 81 north of 90th Avenue Belle Plaine is open for one lane at a time traffic. KDOT hopes to have both lanes open Friday afternoon.

In Harvey County, U.S. 50 is closed from Meridian Avenue in Newton to the Yoder exit in Hutchinson. There's no word on when it will reopen.


Thursday:

One lane of the Kansas Turnpike has been reopened following days of rain flash flooding, but state officials anticipate all lanes will be reopened Thursday evening. 

The Kansas Turnpike Authorities said early Thursday morning that the outside southbound lane of I-35 from Wellington to the Oklahoma state line was reopened. Both northbound lanes in that same stretch remain closed. 

The Kansas Adjutant General's Department "anticipated reopening later this evening," according to a news release.

The closure of the northbound lanes has forced thousands of drivers to find alternate routes, as was the case Wednesday. The Turnpike Authority says crews are ready and waiting to begin repair work as soon as the flood waters recede. 

On Thursday, they began rebuilding the northbound shoulder that has been washed away. 

The delays and detours are causing headaches for drivers, especially truckers who face deadlines for how long they can stay on the road. 

"I was planning on having some time to get back there today and maybe go on another quick run and make some extra money, but it’s probably going to put a big damper on the whole miles thing."

It's not just the extra miles for the detour, it's also the number of cars causing traffic backups. A Sumner County sheriff's deputy said Wellington is seeing around 20,000 vehicles a day with the I-35 closure.

Other highway closures of note include U.S. 77 between between Douglass and Augusta, Route 166 between Arkansas City and just east of the Sumner-Cowley county line and U.S 81 between Wellington and 119th Street at the Sedgwick-Sumner county line.

Cowley County officials say U.S. 77 between Winfield and 132nd Road has been reopened. 

Check road conditions here


Wednesday:

Flash flooding in Kansas is forcing people from their homes, closing roads, including a section of the Kansas Turnpike, and prompting schools to call off classes.

Both directions of the Turnpike from Wellington to the South Haven remained closed Wednesday afternoon. A video shared by the Sumner County Sheriff's Office shows water rushing over lanes of the Turnpike. No injuries have been reported. 

Rachel Bell with the KTA said crews have to wait until the water recedes to reopen I-35 and assess any damage. She had no time frame for when that would be.  

Check road conditions and get updates on closures

Arkansas City police say the closure is causing "very high traffic" in the city. 

"Residents are advised to avoid the bypass on both the North and South end. If you must travel in those areas, expect long delays," Ark City PD said on Facebook. "We are NOT closing the bridge at the south end of town and have no plans to do so at this time."

Video shows traffic backed up along U.S. 77 south of Winfield over the Walnut River.

Here's a screenshot of the highway closures, highlighted in red, from KanDrive.org as of 2:50 p.m. The photo doesn't show that U.S. 77 is also closed between Douglass and Augusta.

A bridge on Route 166 is out due to construction, making detouring more of a challenge. The KTA is working with KDOT and Oklahoma DOT to reroute drivers to Braman and back over the state line.

US-81 was closed in the same area after being covered in water, but it has reopened. And there were numerous water rescues in the Augusta and Mulvane areas. Rescuers in Mulvane assisted or rescued nearly a dozen people due to vehicles being submerged, flooded or washed off roadways.  

Water also covered streets in parts of Wichita, Wellington and other parts of Reno, Butler, Sedgwick, Sumner and Cowley counties. Authorities urge people to not drive into high water. (follow each county's hyperlink for a list of that county's closings) 

Flash flood watches also are in effect in Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, as well as flood warnings along the Mississippi River. The river was expected to crest Wednesday night in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, at a level that causes thousands of acres to flood.