Bracing for the worst



May 22, 2019 - 10:53 AM

The Neosho River is projected to crest at a height of 27.8 feet early Thursday near Iola, exceeding its levels in the 2007 flood.

Mike Epperson clears belongings from his storage unit on South State Street Tuesday.


With forecasts for more rain likely, Iolans continue to brace for what could be the city’s worst flooding since 2007.

Residents worked feverishly late into the night Tuesday to evacuate homes and businesses in south Iola following the city’s recommendation earlier in the day.

A torrential downpour early Tuesday brought more than 4 inches of rain to Iola, exacerbating conditions along the Neosho, which already was above flood stage.

By late Tuesday afternoon, forecasters said the river could reach a nearly historic height of 31 feet — a level unseen since the 1951 flood — or 16 feet above flood stage. 


Floodwater fills the baseball and softball diamonds at Iola’s Riverside Park Tuesday.


Forecasters eventually rolled back those numbers, to an expected crest of about 27.8 feet by Thursday morning.

As of 7 a.m. today, the river’s height was at 20 feet in Iola, down a tad from Tuesday evening, but those numbers will likely change through the day. Flood stage is 15 feet. The Neosho is out of its banks with water extending to Iola city limits.

“We know the river is going to rise more,” Allen County Sheriff Bryan Murphy said. “We just don’t know when or how fast.”

That’s because another round of thunderstorms is expected to hit eastern Kansas today, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is continuing to open the gates at John Redmond Reservoir, which feeds the Neosho.