By TIFFANY RONEY
Some people prefer vehicles, but a local man used a kayak to traverse Abilene streets. Chris Stroda, Abilene resident, floated on floodwaters left by sudden rains on Thursday afternoon. The showers gave Abilene the biggest rain-induced flood it has seen in 30 years, said Lon Schrader, public works director for the City of Abilene.
Chris Stroda, Abilene resident, said the reason he chose to kayak down the street for one simple reason: there was water.
“The water was up in my yard so I figured: fun,” Stroda said. “I was watching TV and I looked outside. The water was clear up in my yard so I was like, ‘Go, grab a kayak, go.’”
Stroda said this is the second time he has kayaked through Abilene streets.
“When we had that flood in ’93, I made it all the way to the river,” he said.
Schrader said Thursday’s flood was much different than the flood of 1993 because that flood was impacted by river and creek levels, causing waters to be backed up for more than a week. In contrast, Thursday’s flood was due to rain and was gone by the evening.
Still, Schrader said the flash flood looked similar to
the 1993 flood on the surface.
“Now, yesterday, down by Don’s Tire at South Buckeye, it looked a lot like 1993 but the difference was, this time, water came so fast out of the sky that it couldn’t get away,” Schrader said.
Though the rain gauge read slightly over 2.2 inches, water was more than a foot deep in front of Great Plains Theatre because of the slope of the street.
“Water was, in some places, probably two feet deep,” Schrader said. “Go down to 5th and the 500 block of 4th Street and water was probably up to some people’s porches.”
Stroda kayaked three or four times down three blocks of N.E. 4th Street and then a couple of blocks on N.E. 5th Street.
Jerrod Keune, Abilene resident, said his children swam in the water near the corner of 8th Street and Buckeye Avenue.
“They were playing in the water like it was a swimming pool out there,” Keune said. “They’re like, ‘Look, it’s a river. It’s a swimming pool, Dad.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s nice. Don’t you know that it’s raining, people?’ They’re like, ‘But this is fun.’ Because the water comes down the hill and runs out and then floods, they think it’s really fun to swim in it.”
Schrader said he does not recommend people swim in the streets during flash floods.
“Most of our storm drains are big enough that they don’t have this problem but you have to make sure no one falls through the storm drains,” Schrader said.
While Keune’s children saw the flood as a place in which to play, Keune said he saw the flooding as a potential problem. He discussed this viewpoint with Abilene Public Library patrons and employees while running an errand at the library. Keune lived in Abilene in the past and recently moved back.
“I said, ‘It seems that Abilene has drainage problems since the last time I was here,’ and one lady told me, ‘Only when it rains,’” Keune said.
Sheryl Davidson, children’s librarian, said the flood caused standing water in the children’s department, which is in the basement of the library.
“We had to move desks and a few other things; it was serious,” Davidson said.
Davidson said a professional water removal crew came to the library and made cuts along baseboards to get water out from behind some of the walls. Today, several fans are running the library’s basement to dry out the rooms. Davidson said the children’s department is closed until further notice.
“Time will take care of the wetness so we can reopen and start serving our patrons again,” Davidson said. “It will be good.”
Schrader said drains normally take 15-30 minutes to catch up after a hard rain. The drains on Thursday afternoon took 45 minutes to an hour to return to normal. Still, Schrader said the standing water did not indicate drainage problems.
“Everybody has drainage problems with rains like that,” Schrader said. “If you were to build a drainage system that took that kind of rains, the cost of that would be outrageous.”
He said the city decides what type of drains to build according to the largest flood probable within an average 20-year span. This statistic is referred to as a 20-year flood, Schrader said.
Nathaniel Tompkins, 10, did not see any problems with the depths of water in Abilene’s streets. Tompkins took advantage of the flash flood to ride his inner tube down the street in front of his house.
“It was really interesting,” Tompkins said. “It’s not really every day that your street turns into a big river that you can float down on an inner tube.”
Nathaniel Tompkins, 10, rides flash flood waters in his inner tube.