COFFEYVILLE, Kan. – Kim Noland can't wait to get back into her home, the one floodwaters chased her out of a dozen days ago.
"I am just in a hurry, impatient," said Noland, who had just closed on her new house a day before the flood. "I am frustrated — can't wait to get it all over with."
On Wednesday, she may get her chance. She and residents of this southeast Kansas town will be allowed to return to what's left of their possessions and residences.
For many, it will be the first time they are allowed home since evacuations began June 30 as the rain-swollen Verdigris River topped its banks. A curfew will be in place in flood zones from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Hundreds gathered at a town hall meeting Tuesday night to hear the news. City Manager Jeffrey Morris was greeted by thundering applause when he told residents that they would be allowed home starting Wednesday.
"When you go into your residence, I can't prepare you enough for what some of you will see," said Mayor Virgil Horn, whose own home was flooded.
Colored placards will tell residents how much flood damage their homes received. Those with green placards will be allowed to stay in their homes, while residences with red placards should not be entered, officials told residents.
About a quarter of the city was flooded when record high floodwater topped the 26.5-foot levees protecting eastern Coffeyville before the river crested at more than 30 feet.
An oil spill from the Coffeyville Resources refinery mixed with raw sewage and other waste to create a toxic soup that drenched homes and businesses for days.
The levees that once protected the neighborhoods kept receding floodwater within the city — forcing officials to pump it out while angry residents were kept away.
Morris warned residents that state emergency crews had to ventilate homes, some of which had oxygen levels that dropped to unsafe levels. That meant crews had to break into many residences, although they did try to keep the damage to a minimum, he said.
He also advised children and elderly adults not to enter the flood areas. Health officials passed out literature with tips for cleaning flooded homes and belongings, and advised people to wear protective clothing.
"Gather your precious valuables — but don't spend a lot of time in there," Horn said.
He also had some more advice: keep homes open, watch your step, keep clean, don't overheat, drink lots of water.
But Horn could not tell them how long it will take to clean up the town.
"We don't have a clue," he said.
He implored people to be patient.
"I'm sorry you had to go through this," he said.
The storm that pummeled Coffeyville was part of a front that dumped flooding rain on Oklahoma and Texas. The bad weather in the Plains continued Tuesday, including a round of strong storms that moved through North Texas, leading to flash flood warnings.
Severe weather in the Plains on Tuesday included a tornado in North Dakota that injured four people near White Shield on Monday evening. High winds in the Fargo area knocked out power to more than 6,000 people, toppling trees and power lines.
In Oklahoma, the roof was blown off an office building in Eufaula as a tornado or straight-line winds blew through. In Muskogee County, the roof of a church was blown off, and several houses were damaged.