Area mostly spared by storms
Iola dodged a Mother Nature-sized bullet Wednesday, with a line of severe and tornadic thunderstorms skirting eastern Kansas — but missing Allen County.
Residents continue to watch anxiously, knowing the next torrential downpour could wreak havoc because the Neosho River continues to flow well above flood stage.
That said, the earliest prognostications that the river would reach a height not seen since the 2007 flood appear to have abated. The latest forecast is that the river will crest at about 25 feet Friday morning, enough to continue flooding nearby farmland and making some roads inaccessible, but not high enough to force Iola officials to shut down its water treatment plant.
This morning, the river had receded to below 20 feet, or about a foot lower than its levels Tuesday and Wednesday.
That said, locals who live and work in flood-prone areas remain wary.
Jerry Sigg, who runs JD’s Tire and Muffler on South State Street, is not yet ready to take a deep breath.
“Not with four more days of rain forecast,” Sigg said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re just going to listen to what the authorities say. Don’t be stupid.”
Sigg and a team of helpers moved dozens of cars Tuesday evening to higher ground elsewhere around town. For those whose vehicles were driveable, customers were encouraged to come retrieve them.
Then, the focus shifted to removing the hundreds of tires in his warehouse.
In the 2007 flood, his entire tire inventory was demolished. “I won’t go through that again,” he said.
By midday Wednesday, Sigg and crew had made it to removing tools, equipment and office furniture.
“You hope you’re doing this work for nothing,” noted Ryan Sigg, Jerry’s son. “But you know how bad it can get.”
The 2007 flood filled JD’s with 4½ feet of floodwater, shuttering the businesses for weeks afterward.
Jerry Sigg will continue to monitor weather forecasts and river levels.
Ideally, he’ll begin the arduous task of returning the cars, tires and equipment by this weekend.
“We’ll just wait and see,” he said.
ANN and Brad Lea also are watching forecasts anxiously.
Their home at 318 W. Bruner St., which was the home of Ann’s parents, Joe and Lavonda Maloney, is one of the few in Iola’s Davis Addition to have survived previous floods in 1951 and 2007.
The Leas began pulling items from their house Monday evening, even before Tuesday’s downpour of more than 4 inches, exacerbating fears of more flooding.
By Tuesday night, they, too, had cleared their bottom floor of furnishings, kitchen items and household goods.
Much was hauled up to the second floor; the rest was taken to daughter Chelsea Lea’s dance studio in downtown Iola.
“It’s gone pretty well,” Ann Lea told the Register.
Their house has remained dry, although their yard has become something of a lake. The floodwaters sat precipitously close to their front porch steps through Wednesday.
“We had some teenage boys help us move,” Ann said. “They taught us how to skip rocks across our front yard.”