As Lindsborg residents continued to clean up after Monday’s flood, many residents affected by the disaster are asking why the city flooded.
Residents gathered at Smoky Valley Middle School Thursday night for a town hall meeting to discuss flood recovery and find out answers to why their houses ended up under water.
According to a hydrologist consulted by the city, Lindsborg received a 200-year rain event July 25. After the ground already was saturated, the city received 5 inches of rain in an hour and a half on July 29, which qualified as a second 200-year rain event. The expert estimated that 9.2 trillion gallons of water fell on the area during the rain event.
The hydrologist told city officials the odds of two 200-year rain events occurring in less than 10 days were astronomical.
As a result of the heavy rains, a water diversion channel west of town filled and over topped, resulting in a wall of water rushing into north Lindsborg.
“We plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Dennis Colsden of the Kansas Department of Emergency Management said. “We can plan for the worst, but we can’t predict mother nature.”
Some residents still have basements full of water as a result of Monday’s flooding.
With rain in the forecast again for this weekend, local residents asked if they need to be filling sand bags now for another event.
Greg DuMars, city administrator, said the director of public works and an engineer inspected the drainage ditch in question this week. No damage was found to the ditch.
The ditch was built in 1988 to handle a 25-year flood event, and it simply could not handle the volume of water the fell on the city, DuMars said.
Many homes had sewer backups. Water from the flood filled sewer drains. DuMars said the sewer plant was running at 100 percent capacity through the event and could not keep up with the water.A number of residents asked why they did not have any prior warning of the flood.
Dillard Webster, McPherson County director of Emergency Management, said weather forecasting can’t predict flash floods. Radar can show where thunderstorms are occurring, but they can not measure how much rain is falling in a particular area. The National Weather Service was not aware of the flood situation until McPherson County 911 informed them of the event.
DuMars said despite the tragedy, the community has pulled together to help each other in this time of crisis.
“Our hearts really go out to you,” DuMars said. “It’s a horrible thing that has happened to all of you. I do say, doing all those visits, I was proud to be a part of community in those conversations when people said, ‘Well it could been worse or my neighbor had it worse.’ I felt guilty. All of you had it so much worse than I did, and all of you are thinking of others. ...
Page 2 of 3 - At times I wonder about the human spirit, and all of you exemplified how great the human spirit truly is.”
The reality of the event was slowly starting to sink in for many of the affected residents.
About 125 homes were affected by the flooding, with damages estimated at more than $3 million.
The McPherson County Commission signed a disaster declaration Thursday, which will be forwarded to the state to see if there was enough damage to public property, such as roads, bridges and utilities, statewide to declare a state disaster.
Local and state emergency management representatives said it was extremely unlikely the Lindsborg disaster would qualify as a federal disaster. Officials said the Greensburg tornado did not qualify for FEMA assistance and 95 percent of the town was completely destroyed. This means no public aid will be available for residents who had structural damage and personal property losses due to the flood.
Most of the homes that were affected by the flood were not in a flood plane. As a result, only one homeowner in the affected area reported having flood insurance.
“One of the saddest things I have to do is work with floods because I can’t help,” Webster said. “We get into this business and are on call 24/7 because we want to help people, but in floods, we can’t.”
At this point, residents’ best hope to recoup some loses is through donations from charitable organizations who may be able to assist with replacement of clothes and food or assist with payment of utility bills.
The city is trying to do some things to lessen the blow on homeowners who are trying to clean up and rebuild. All building permit fees have been waived for flood-affected homes. However, building permits will be required. All contractors are required to register with the city. DuMars said this is designed to protect residents from scams. He also urged residents to be aware of insurance scams. Homeowners can buy flood insurance for their homes to cover future loses through the national Flood Insurance program.
The Red Cross continues to offer bleach, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies to residents to assist with clean up.
Free tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis shots will be offered by the Lindsborg Community Hospital to residents and volunteers working in the flood zone between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. today at 425 W. Garfield. Recipients must be 11 years old or older.
The city has named a volunteer coordinator at city hall to direct people to where help is needed. DuMars urged residents to sign up at the city with any needs they may have so volunteer efforts can be focused.
The city was expecting several church groups to come to the city Friday, including Mennonite Disaster Relief, Methodist disaster services and a group from the Evangelical church.
Page 3 of 3 - To volunteer, call 785-227-3355.
There also will be a community potluck at 6 p.m. Saturday in Swensson Park for those affected by the flood, volunteers and first responders.
Bring a lawn chair. Live entertainment will be provided.
A fund has been set up at Peoples Bank to assist flood victims. Make checks payable to the Lindsborg Flood Relief Fund. One hundred percent of the funds collected will go to flood victims.
The Red Cross is also making available referrals to mental health services for those who have been traumatized by the flood. DuMars urged residents to take advantage to of community resources to assist in the emotional recovery.