Severe Weather Roars Through Kansas

Torrential rainfall and strong winds whipped through parts of Kansas Thursday, flooding small towns, prompting evacuations, closing highways and blowing limbs from trees.

Rainfall ranging from 5 to 7 inches was not uncommon, authorities said.

Dozens of flooded roads were closed by the second deluge in three weeks and many of them were expected to require another round of repairs, said Saline County deputy emergency management director Dean Speaks.

"It's taken out the roads that we fixed (after the first flooding)," Speaks said. Numerous government facilities, homes and businesses in the Salina area were flooded.

Everyone in the Saline County towns of Bavaria and Hedville — about 80 people — evacuated their homes overnight due to flooding, he said. Centers were set up for the evacuees.

Fifty homes in Ogden, near Fort Riley, were being voluntarily evacuated as area creeks rose.

From Garden City in the southwest to Belleville in the north-central region near Nebraska, waves of violent, slow-moving storms on Wednesday dropped several inches of rain while pelting the countryside with large hail.

Reno County and other central Kansas counties recorded the heaviest amounts — as much as 2 inches of rain an hour, with 7 inches recorded at Hutchinson by 8 p.m.

No injuries or property damage were immediately reported, but many motorists had to be helped from their cars as water several inches deep washed over city streets. The American Red Cross opened a shelter at a Hutchinson church for people needing a dry place to spend the night.

The Hutchinson Fire Department sent fire trucks to assist people trapped in vehicles or with homes near areas of high water, Fire Chief Kim Forbes said.

"In some places, there are people with water up to their porches," Forbes said about 8:30 p.m. "We are relocating them to higher ground or transporting them" to the church.

Seven people were temporarily stranded inside Triffet's North Main Barbershop, where owner Frank Triffet was forced to sandbag around the door to keep water from creeping into his business. He was especially annoyed by drivers of large pickup trucks who deliberately drive fast enough to spray the water.

"When they drive through, the waves go up to the door. They cause misery for all of us; we're all in the same boat," Triffett said.

The last customer of the day, Richard Hall, arrived at the shop at 3:30 p.m. and was still trying to leave more than three hours later.

"The rain stops and starts again in 10 minutes," Hall said.

A levee protecting the rural eastern part of the Reno County from the Arkansas River broke in several places during heavy rain in early May, and inspectors were taking their first look Wednesday at the breaks and considering how to repair them.

To the north in McPherson County, emergency management officials closed all county roads in the southern half of the county and advised motorists to stay out of the area.

As the storms spread northward late Wednesday, flash flooding was reported on many roads in the city of Ellsworth.

And in Republic County, water ran 8 to 10 inches deep along streets in South Belleville, stalling out several cars.

The same storm system also spawned brief tornadoes in southwest Kansas. Touchdowns were reported near Kinsley and Centerview in Edwards County and just east of Syracuse in Hamilton County on the Colorado border.

Thursday's forecast called for clearing skies from west to east across the state.