City officials are thankful the Marais des Cygnes River level did not force the Main Street bridge flood gates to be activated.
“Closing those gates are the last thing we want to do,” Michael Haeffele, city public works director, said. “It effects everybody. We don’t like doing it. It is a necessary evil when it is time.”
The Marais des Cygnes River crested at nearly 29.4 feet at about 9 p.m. Tuesday. Haeffele said the river needed to reach about 33 feet before officials would have considered closing the gates.
“To close them, there are a lot of preparations that go into that,” Haeffele said. “Those rails and locking mechanisms have to be cleaned out. We want to have everything ready to go prior to [that]. There is a lot of work involved.”
The county was not as fortunate as about 15 roads were impassable because of high water, an official said.
“Any road that has water running on it, is impassable due to water,” Thomas Winter, assistant Franklin County Emergency Management director, said. “We are playing the waiting game. We still have roads that are covered with water. Turn around, don’t drown. Even if there is not a barricade on the road, turn around. There is undermining on the road that you can’t see. There might be a six-foot gully that is washed out.”
Emergency Management reported Tuesday afternoon the following locations had high water: Virginia Road north of Lane; Douglas Road heading west of Virginia; Virginia Road at Douglas Terrace (north of Lane); Rock Creek east of Oregon Road; 2700 block of Kentucky Road to Montana Road; 2600-2800 Vermont (north of Rantoul); Pawnee Road (west of Eisenhower); Jackson Road (east of Virginia); Thomas Road (east of Utah); and Allen and Texas (north of Greeley). Winter said getting in and out of Lane and Rantoul is pretty difficult because of the flooding of the Pottawatomie Creek.
“It came up to major flood stage,” Winter said. “It crested Tuesday at noon and it is going down. The only way you can get into Rantoul is through John Brown. The only way you can get into Lane is either going via Paola down through Osawatomie or going across from Scipio. Our emergency coverages change drastically when we are cut off by water. We have agreements with Miami County to do EMS calls in the city of Lane. We executed that [Tuesday] with a medical call in Lane.”
Winter said the flood caused one water rescue Monday night when a car was caught in high water at Rock Creek and Oregon.
“Out in the country, know what your flooded out areas are, especially if you are traveling at night in heavy rain,” Winter said. “If you incur water, turn around.”
The Ottawa water plant reported 8.59 inches of rain from 7 a.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Wednesday. Winter said the rain gauge at the Emergency Management office in downtown Ottawa had little more than eight inches.
“The north and western part of the county got less rain than the south and eastern portion of the county,” Winter said. “More of our issues have been in the eastern portions of the county.”
Haeffele said city officials use the National Weather Service prediction as a guide.
“It does help us prepare for what we are doing,” he said. “I have guys that have been here long enough to know what that river is going to do. The forecasts we get, plus the knowledge of the river itself, helps us in our preparations and plans. They forecasted it would crest at 29 feet. It crested at 29.38 feet. It is allows us to make preparations and when we need to make those preparations for things like closing the gate.”
Winter said his office contacted the NWS after flooding was reported Monday in Quenemo so they could report information on what the expected levels were going to be at certain points along the river.
“They stayed pretty close to the guidance they gave us at the very preliminary,” Winter said. “The rain gauge at Pottawatomie Creek is a whole another animal. That was a slow moving thing. All the Pottawatome Creek water is running into the Marais des Cygnes water.”
The city closed access to the Second Street Dam on Tuesday. Haeffele said Nugent Creek flows into the river at that point and water was over the entrance road.
“We close that to try to keep people out of there and keep the public safe,” he said. “The water in the river is going to have to go down quite a ways before we can [open it up]. It is a safety thing. The water has to get down below that road. It is a low-water crossing.”
Haeffele said the city streets escaped any closings with this storm.
“The worst is past us,” he said. “We don’t like closing streets. If there would have been water over any of the roads, we would have closed them.”
Haeffele said for precautionary measures, city crews will be monitoring the river for a few more days.
“We will continue that until the river gets back down probably below the 20-foot stage,” Haeffele said.
Winter and Haeffele both warned residents of the danger of vehicles running through water.
“Every situation is different,” Haeffele said. “The public needs to remember is if there is water going over the road, don’t try to drive through it. You don’t know what is underneath or what is not underneath it. Find a different route.”
Winter said there have been cases where a couple of inches of running water caused the asphalt underneath to crumble. He said Jeff Welton, county public works employee, has concerns of the conditions of the asphalt in the Pottawatomie Creek area.