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OUR NEIGHBORS | Man decorates truck in tribute to wife

Lawrence Young said when young people driving sports cars rev their engines at him on the highway, he just blasts Carrie Underwood.

The 70-year-old owner of the “Carrie Underwood truck” said with a laugh they’re always surprised by how loud his truck can get. The Chevrolet Silverado is covered in a dozen full-body and face shots of the “American Idol” country singer.

He said the truck is a tribute to his wife, Kathy. She had fibromyalgia, a disorder that sends pain through the body. In 2010, she underwent surgery to help with the pain. However, after some complications relating to the surgery, she died.

Young said he wanted to find a way to create a tribute using the singer.

His wife was in a coma for four months. After he brought her home, he played Underwood’s music for his wife all day, every day.

He said because of Underwood, he got an extra nearly 10 weeks with his wife after she briefly woke up.

“I’m very sure if I hadn’t turned on the music, she never would’ve fought back,” Young said.

He said the last thing his wife tried to say to him was “Carrie music help rough times,” before she died a few seconds later. Young knew she was trying to say that the musician would help him through the rough times to come.

A few years later, he got the Silverado, his dream truck.

“I thought, ‘I could make a tribute on the truck,’” he said. “So many people would see it and I would feel like I’m doing my part to give back.”

His son, Greg, did the layout, and he took it to J&S Signs to do the vinyl wrap.

Since then, the retired geology teacher has spent his time posing for picture with people who want one with the truck, washing it every three days to keep Underwood’s face clean, answering questions about why he did it and going to concerts.

“I’ve been to seven concerts of Carrie’s,” he said. “I went to Nashville to hear her in the Grand Ole Opry.”

At the concert in Nashville, he said she tried to get her to sign the truck, but the timing just didn’t work out. When she comes to Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita this September, he said they’re hopefully going to get her to sign it.

He said his son likes the the work, but doesn’t care for big trucks. Young said his daughter “questions the reasoning.”

Still, he said he likes the tribute to his wife. He also likes the tribute to his dogs that have passed. Aside from Underwood, he said the only other thing on the truck is a personalized license plate for his service dog, Tenchi, and a bumper sticker in honor of his dogs that have passed. He’s had three Pomeranians as service dogs, initially because his wife loved the dogs.

“People always remember the truck or my puppy,” he said.

Young said that even though people don’t always understand his why, they’re always friendly.

“When people see me on the road, they wave,” he said. “We stop and talk. It’s a very friendly area to be in.”

Young works on his farm some, although he has rented out most of the land. He retired after 47 years of teaching back in December. He retired for a brief period in the 1990s and early 2000s to work on the family farm, then taught at places like Cloud Community College and K-State Polytechnic in Salina for a while. He said the geology aspect is another reason he loves Kansas.

He loved to travel to see rocks and teach his students about them. He said he took students on field trips around Kansas. He also traveled around to places like Santa Fe, New Mexico, and floated down the Rio Grande river.

In his free time, he collects rocks, minerals and fossils. He also used to make jewelry for his wife, but said he hasn’t regained interest.

“Maybe I’ll find it again,” Young said.

MHS students graduate with messages of hope, realism

Nearly 400 students celebrated at the Manhattan High School graduation ceremony Sunday at Bramlage Coliseum.

Family, friends and teachers filled the seats to watch the students and listen to student speakers give advice and their perspectives.

Greg VanDyke Jr., who said he “rocks the nickname Preacher G,” gave an uplifting, hopeful message for his peers.

He recalled building friendships and enduring loss throughout their years together, saying he believed all the students were winners for getting back up when life knocked them down. He also reminded them that sometimes, when life knocks them down, they can ask for help from those around them.

“It’s going to be OK if you’re not fully OK,” VanDyke said. “The truth is, we did not get here by ourselves. We’ve had the support of family and friends.”

He said they may start to believe the old adage of “the grass always looks greener on the other side,” but gave them tips to get their own green grass.

“If you plant your seeds, give them water and sunlight, cut the grass as it continues to grow, your grass will be just as green,” he said.

He led them in a chant — “I believe that we just won” — as he ended his speech.

The second speaker, Jered Zhang, said he wanted to take a more realistic approach.

Zhang said the world is what the students will make of it.

He told the mythology of the Greek king Sisyphus, who was punished for being deceitful by being forced to push a rock up a steep hill for eternity, only to have the rock roll back down the hill every time it neared the top. He said life could be equally disappointing sometimes for his peers.

“Some of you will work for others to feed yourselves to continue to work,” he said. “Your work may not be owned by you. We’ve all heard of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but what about the engineers who work for them?”

For the entire audience, he gave a reminder of change.

“It’s never too late to dream of something better, if not for you, then for your children or grandchildren,” he said.

After the final students crossed the stage, Principal Greg Hoyt congratulated the students, reminded them to be careful in their celebrations and dismissed them a final time, which was met with cheers, applause and a rain of graduation caps.

Officials expect Wildcat Creek flooding as record rain continues

City officials are warning residents that Wildcat Creek might be flooding Monday and Tuesday as more rainfall is expected this week.

K-State climatologist Mary Knapp said Manhattan has received 10.33 inches of rain in May, which makes it the wettest May on record for this point in the month. She said the forecast for Monday morning through midnight Wednesday predicted 2 to 3 inches added to that total.

The heaviest rain in the system will probably come between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. Tuesday, which could impact Tuesday morning’s commute, Knapp said.

Wildcat Creek at Scenic Drive could reach 22.5 feet by Tuesday morning, according to the National Weather Service. This is a step below the major flood stage, which is 23 feet. The creek last reached the major flood stage on Labor Day 2018 when the creek at Scenic elevated to 28.29 feet.

“People will need to be alert to rising waters,” Knapp said. “Everything is saturated.”

Wildcat Creek experienced minor flooding overnight Saturday after about three inches of rain, which filled storage and retention ponds.

Officials said Wildcat Creek residents should sign up for alerts, take precautions to protect important items and have a plan to evacuate if necessary.

Saturday’s rain also caused flash flooding within Manhattan. Third Street’s intersections with both Bluemont Avenue and Tuttle Creek Boulevard; and N. Manhattan Avenue’s intersection with both Bluemont Avenue and Claflin Road were closed briefly Saturday night.

There is also a chance of rain Thursday through Saturday.

The record for the entire month was set in 1995, which saw 14.73 inches in May. In 1993, Manhattan saw 10.99 inches during May.

“The question is whether we’ll beat ’95,” Knapp said.

According to Bryce Anderson, senior ag meteorologist for DTN, an agriculture information company, Kansas could receive almost 11 inches of rain between Monday and Memorial Day on next Monday.

Knapp said forecasts are trending wetter than normal overall through August. However, she said that could mean some months are more dry while other months are wetter.

“That’s not going to allow for much drying,” she said.

This pattern holds for most of the Midwest. Knapp said the area predicted to see more precipitation and cooler than average temperatures in June stretches from Texas to North Dakota and from western Missouri to California.

Corps officials say residents don't need to worry, despite weekend rains

Tuttle Creek Lake rose 1.38 feet after this weekend’s storms, but officials don’t expect a significant change in the current situation going forward.

As of Tuesday, the lake elevation sits at 1,125.90 feet above sea level, about 50.9 feet above its normal pool.

Brian McNulty, project operations manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the lake, said there is still 30% of the flood pool available. “That’s a pretty substantial rain event that would fill that,” he said.

The outflow remains at the minimum of 200 cubic feet per second. McNulty said that level of outflow would change based on both the lake level and Missouri River level based on the station gauge at Waverly, Missouri, which is about 73 river miles east of Kansas City.

With the lake level between 1,102 feet and 1,128 feet, the Corps could release water above the minimum outflow if the Missouri River at Waverly is flowing below 130,000 cubic feet per second. As of Monday, the gauge reads as a flow of 166,000 cubic feet per second.

McNulty said if the lake hits more than 1,128.3 feet, the Corps could release additional water if the Waverly gauge shows a flow below 180,000 cubic feet per second.

However, McNulty said officials don’t expect the lake to rise that high despite the rain forecast this week.

The lake will have to rise to 1,136 feet, the levels reached in 1993 when officials opened the emergency spillway gates, before officials start releasing water without regard to downstream conditions.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is holding a public meeting from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Manhattan Fire Station headquarters at 2000 Denison Ave. in the first floor meeting hall.