Johnson County cities addressing storm water problems to keep flooding at bay

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- Cities all over Johnson County have been taking a look at storm water issues, which in some places have gotten worse because of developments.

It causes runoff and flooding that put property and lives at risk.

Multiple streams flowing east to west, plus the Blue River, make quick volumes of rain tough to handle in some parts of Leawood.

Three to five inches in an hour or two can cause localized flooding, while five to seven inches of rain over three to six hours creates major flooding.

Much of the flooding happens on park land -- but not all of it.

“Our previous emphasis and our current emphasis still is where we can do projects to get houses out of the flood plane,” said David Roberts with the Leawood Public Works Department.

Roberts has completed various creek improvement projects like the one in the Leawood Heritage neighborhood, mitigating flood damage by widening the channel and improving two culvert crossings.

“We did end up buying out one house because no amount of strategy that we have would get that house out of the flood plain,” Roberts said. “It was just too close and in a situation where we could not save it from being flooded.”

That area has not flooded since that project was completed two years ago, but Roberts said there has not been enough short, heavy intense rains to fully test it yet.

A flood warning system in Overland Park focuses on public safety.

It's a series of rainfall and stream level gauges that provide critical information for emergency crews to keep people safe.

“For instance, road barricades when we have levels that are over-topping the roads to make sure vehicles are not driving over those, the standing water,” said Lorraine Basalo with the City of Overland Park.

It's a safety system put in place as a result of flooding in 1984.

“That flood event was symbolized by two young teenage girls clinging to a traffic sign, and they were completely surrounded by floodwaters,” Basalo said. “And so the governing body wanted to do something immediately.”

It started in 1985 with five gauges along Indian Creek and has expanded to 108 gauges throughout Johnson County.

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