Kansas governor encourages vigilance during severe weather, flooding

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KAKE) -

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly outlined the state’s largescale coordinated response to flooding and severe weather and encouraged Kansans to remain vigilant as severe weather continues to impact the state through Memorial Day weekend.

The governor spoke to media at the Kansas State Emergency Operations Center on Thursday. 

“Memorial Day Weekend is a time many Kansans head outside or go to the lake. In many areas, conditions are not safe,” Kelly said. “Please, put the safety of yourself and your family first. Check the weather before you venture out. If there is severe weather or tornadoes, seek shelter in a secure location. Check your road routes before traveling – remember conditions can change very fast. And stay away from flood water.”

Heavy rainfall, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms have been impacting Kansas communities for several weeks.

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More severe weather and flooding likely

A disaster declaration includes 42 Kansas counties. More rain and severe storms are forecast through early next week. Widespread flooding will likely cause additional road and park closures in the coming days.

“Please do not play, swim or walk in flood water. It is full of debris, hidden objects and worse. The current can sweep people away,” Kelly said. “Follow all safety warnings and signs. If local officials advise you to evacuate, heed their advice. They are trying to help keep you safe.”

On Monday, Kansas activated the State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the response to multi-hazard events including flooding, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. 

Road Closures

To obtain information about current road closures in your local area, visit kandrive.org or connect with local law enforcement on social media. 

Kansans are encouraged to avoid flooded roads. Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli stressed the importance of not underestimating the force and power of water.

"It only takes about a foot of water to float a car," said Tafanelli. "Two feet of rushing water can carry away most SUVs and pick-up trucks. Flood waters move swiftly and can quite easily knock you off your feet and sweep you away. So, please, heed all warning signs and safety barriers. Don't try to wade or drive through flooded areas. Turn around, don't drown.”

State Park Closures

As Kansas approaches one of the busiest weekends for its state parks, safety must be the top priority. For flood alerts in State Parks, visit ksoutdoors.com

Tafanelli says people should not swim, walk, or play in flooded streams or lakes. 

"There may be dangerous floating debris, hidden underwater obstacles, and treacherous currents,” Tafanelli said. “Don't try to launch a boat or swim in the water. Even fishing or walking along the bank can be dangerous because the bank may be slippery or easily collapse. Flood waters demand our utmost respect."

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Local assistance

In the event of an emergency, call 911.  For non-emergency assistance, contact local law enforcement and first responders. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management works directly with them. All requests for local assistance should be initiated through the county emergency manager.

The disaster declaration currently includes: Anderson, Barber, Barton, Butler, Chase, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Clark, Clay, Cloud, Coffey, Comanche, Cowley, Crawford, Dickinson, Doniphan, Elk, Franklin, Geary, Greenwood, Harvey, Jefferson, Kingman, Lincoln, Lyon, Marion, McPherson, Meade, Montgomery, Morris, Neosho, Osage, Ottawa, Pottawatomie, Pratt, Reno, Rice, Riley, Saline, Sumner, Wabaunsee, Wilson and Woodson.