Recent Heavy Rains Douse The Area...Cause Widespread Flooding (5/26/2002)

By: C. Omitt

Torrential Rains and Flooding of May 23rd and 24th Highlight What has been an Incredibly Wet Month for portions of Kansas.

Until recently, south central and southeast Kansas had been experiencing a mild drought with rainfall deficits. During the months of March and April many counties issued burn bans and grass fires seemed to be commonplace. Those days have become a distant memory as bouts of severe weather and heavy rains have occurred frequently during the past month. Although the tornadoes and large hail that accompany severe thunderstorms have grabbed headlines during the past month, it has been the accumulative effect of heavy rains that has turned a parched landscape into one with rivers flowing near or out of their banks.

The latest heavy rainfall occurred during a two-day period from Thursday evening May 23rd through Friday night May 24th. The heavy rains of Thursday night May 23rd produced widespread rainfall amounts in excess of 4 inches across an area roughly along and east of the Kansas Turnpike Image 1. Rainfall rates of 2 to 4 inches per hour were common with the thunderstorms on the night of May 23rd. In fact, many locations received over 2 inches of rain in less than 30 minutes! This produced widespread flash flooding with numerous reports of motorists trapped in stalled vehicles across southeast Wichita. The torrential rains totaled between 4 and 7 inches across portions of southern Butler and northern Cowley counties. Rainfall in the Atlanta area of northern Cowley county totaled over 6 inches...while the heavy rains submerged two vehicles in Douglass.

Round two arrived late Friday, May 24th as severe thunderstorms organized into a large cluster across south central and southeast Kansas. Rainfall amounts were not quite as high Friday night due to the fast movement of the storms Image 2. However, the ground was already saturated and more flooding was inevitable. In fact, flood waters washed a truck off a road in Butler county. By late Friday, runoff from the heavy rains had caused several area rivers to flood.

The recent flooding rains have followed a 30 day trend of excessive rainfall across portions of south central and southeast Kansas Image 3. Looking at it in a different way, rainfall over the past 30 days as a percent of normal paints a dramatic picture across the state of Kansas Image 4. While southeast Kansas floats in rainfall that exceeds 200 percent of normal...western kansas continues to suffer extremely dry conditions.

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