Emergency management officials prepare for potential flooding

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Bill Whitworth (right) discusses rising water levels at local lakes during Tuesday's meeting at the Emergency Management Center.

According to Geary County Emergency Management officials, there are possible flooding risks throughout Geary and Riley counties. 

Some areas are under a flash flood watch until 7 p.m. Tuesday. The weather forecast calls for an additional half inch of rain in Junction City by the end of the day. 

“There is potential for severe weather today, but residents should mainly expect just rain,” Geary County Emergency Management Director Garry Berges said.

Current water levels at Milford Lake are at 1,160.08, which is just 21.86 feet below what the lake was at in 1993 when the county experienced devastating flooding.

Several emergency responders met Tuesday morning at the Emergency Management Center in Junction City. Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave updates on Milford Lake and Tuttle Creek Lake, where water levels are rising. Milford Lake's water level is just shy of 20 feet higher than normal. 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Bill Whitworth discussed a deviation plan, which he will also discuss during a public meeting that will be held at the Geary County Senior Center May 29 at 6 p.m. According to Whitworth, authorization to release water from the reservoirs has not been received since March 2 because of high water levels and fear of downstream flooding throughout the Kansas City District. Officials from the Kansas City District will be on hand during the March 29 meeting, Whitworth said.

“The corps is held to maintain a certain volume of water in the river, and during normal Milford Lake operations, that gauge is to drop more than 90,000 (cubic feet per second) before we can release, but it has been higher than that for several months,” Whitworth said. “The Kansas City district, which Milford Lake is a part of, is in the process of going through and submitting a waiver to exceed the level. If granted, water can be let into the river to about 2-3 feet more than what is already in the river. What the district will do if they get the waiver approved is allocate that space amongst the reservoirs, and divide them amongst the highest priority lakes. It just depends on where the lakes are and how much of the flooding pool is occupied. We are hoping to be able to release some water in the next seven to 10 days, and we will let you guys know if that happens.”

Officials from other local departments spoke of safety precautions being taken in order to prepare for the event of the declaration of a flash flood. Junction City police officers are patrolling barricaded areas, the fire department has a flood preparedness team on hand, and numerous organizations have begun to prepare sandbags. There are 100,000 sandbags currently stored at Fort Riley. Fort Riley officials are working diligently with the surrounding communities to provide help where it is needed.

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