Sandbags

Workers in Solomon prepared for an upcoming flood by filling sandbags Tuesday morning. Below right are projections of flooding by the Kansas Division of Emergency Management for the cities of Abilene, Chapman and Solomon

Power lines were down around the 2000 block of Paint Road following a tornado that traveled between Hope and Chapman Tuesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service in Topeka placed northeastern Dickinson County in a tornado warning at approximately 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The tornado, which moved on and off the ground, eventually passed east of Chapman, according to scanner traffic based on reports from Dickinson County Sheriff’s officers.

The downed power poles were the only known damage from the storm.

The tornado sprung up out of a volatile weather system that is expected to impact much of Kansas for at least another week.

Planning for floods

About 40 people met earlier Tuesday afternoon in the basement of the Dickinson County Courthouse to discuss preparations to handle historic flooding expected to impact much of Dickinson County in upcoming days.

The emergency management meeting was attended by Dickinson County officials and representatives from Abilene, Chapman and Enterprise, including public works, fire and law enforcement, Memorial Hospital, Red Cross and Westar Energy officials and others. Dickinson County Emergency Management Director Chancy Smith conducted the meeting.

A similar meeting was held Monday afternoon which also included representatives from the cities of Solomon and Herington, the Kansas Department of Emergency Management, the Kansas Department of Transportation and others.

Don’t be fooled

In the 24-hours since the first meeting Monday, river forecasts showed the Smoky Hill River cresting lower than expected. However, Smith said meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Topeka are “pretty adamant” the county is going to experience significant flooding at the levels previously predicted.

Chad Omitt, warning coordination meteorologist with the Topeka NWS, participated in the meeting via telephone. He explained NWS forecasts are based on 18 to 24 hours in the future which does not include any precipitation that might fall after that time.

“We are looking at more rainfall. We are going to see at least five to seven days of thunderstorms pretty much everyday,” Omitt said. “Don’t get caught up in the details of these river forecasts, especially to how it (river level) falls and might fall.”

The Tuesday river forecast did not include “a big rain dump” expected to occur Thursday night, he said.

“There’s more rain that could possibly fall, and likely will fall, over the Smoky Hill (River) basin,” Omitt said.

Paul Froelich, Enterprise public works superintendent, asked Omitt about the chances for severe weather Thursday.

Omitt said it was a concern.

“As if it’s not enough to be worried about the incredible flooding we’ve got going everywhere in the eastern two-thirds of the state, but Thursday night’s setup is one of the better setups we’ve seen so far this spring for actual super cells, hail and tornado hazards. At least in the early evening across some part of the area,” Omitt said.

That system could likely turn into a “rain-producing cluster,” he said.

“It’s (heavy rain) not over at all. I don’t see any relief in this pattern until maybe next Wednesday,” Omitt said. “Any of us could see nighttime thunderstorms that will dump nighttime rain.”

River, creek rising

Kevin Stroda with the Abilene Public Works Department reported that Mud Creek, which flows through Abilene had risen approximately “a foot per hour” since 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and it hadn’t yet crested at the time of Tuesday’s meeting which took place at 2 p.m.

Froelich said the Smoky Hill River rose almost four feet overnight from Monday to Tuesday.

Turn around, don’t drown

If the river crosses K-15, that means many other roads countywide will be underwater.

“The safety message begins real important: Turn around. Don’t drown,” Smith said. “That’s just critical. We’d probably put a lot of rescue people’s lives in danger trying to save people that drive off into floodwater.

“It’s going to happen. It’s not if it happens, but when it happens,” Smith said.

Contact Kathy Hageman at reporter@abilene-rc.com

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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