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SAFE
Tornado causes minimal damage

No injuries were reported after a tornado touched down Tuesday in Geary County, the sheriff’s department said.

The tornado touched down between 4:50 and 5:20 p.m. north of Old 40 Highway at the county line and traveled northwest.

The tornado stayed south of Milford Lake and west of Junction City before crossing over onto Fort Riley. Fort Riley officials said there was a brief touchdown in the northwest training areas, and nothing on Main Post or Custer Hill units.

No people were in the area when the tornado touched down.

Officials reported minor tree damage, light shingle damage and a destroyed metal shed.


Area
Pott County keeps eye on Tuttle Creek Lake

Pottawatomie County officials continue to keep one eye on the weather and the other on the level of Tuttle Creek Lake.

With the lake level continuing to rise slowly and rain dominating the near-term forecast, county officials are meeting weekly to prepare for potential flooding in the event a major release of water from the lake becomes necessary.

Tuttle Creek, however, has nearly 30 percent of its flood control storage capacity remaining and a major release is not imminent, according to Chris Trudo, Pott County emergency management director.

“We’re not at the imminent stage where we’re saying this is going to happen,” Trudo told county commissioners Monday. “We’re not saying that everyone should run for high ground, but it is something we need to prepare for.”

Trudo and fellow emergency officials have been planning emergency evacuation routes, shelter sites for both humans and animals, filling sites for sandbags (the county just ordered 9,000), and making arrangements with the Red Cross.

Fire Supervisor Jared Barnes said he is collaborating with Manhattan and Riley County officials, as well as Pott County fire chiefs and other local officials.

Hal Bumgarner, Emergency Medical Services director, said a plan for ambulance rotation and relocation has been developed. If Highway 24 floods east of Manhattan, there is a plan to house ambulances and personnel on both sides of the Blue River to ensure continued service to all parts of Pott County, he said.

Meanwhile, Crystal Malchose, director of human resources, has been designated to handle all official public information released by the county.

“There was a lot of misinformation in 1993,” Trudo said. “The information we give out in 2019 needs to be much better than ’93.”

Up-to-date flood information is available at the county website (pottcounty.org), and Malchose is developing a Facebook page to disseminate official county information, according to Robert Reece, county administrator.


Education
Theodore Roosevelt principal promoted to special services

Tiede

Andrea Tiede will leave her job as principal of Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School for a new job within the district.

Tiede will begin as Executive Director of Special Services on July 1. She is replacing Debora Howser, who is moving to Kansas City to work for the Kansas School for the Blind.

Tiede has been principal at the elementary school since 2009. She had served as a special education teacher at Lee Elementary School previously. She received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2002 and a master’s degree in special education in 2005.

“I am excited to accept this new position in our district,” Tiede said. “I appreciate the support of district leadership in our community. As a former special education teacher and a building principal, I have a vested interest in supporting a strong special education program and creating successful opportunities for children.”

She said she is grateful for the time she spent at the elementary school.

The Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education is set to take action on the recommendation at the June 5 board meeting.

Tiede is the fifth principal to leave their school this academic year.

Greg Hoyt retired as head principal of Manhattan High School at the beginning of the year. Michael Dorst, 10th grade assistant principal, was promoted to his position. Benjamin Jimenez, who interviewed for Hoyt’s job, will replace Dorst.

Brett Nelson announced he would be leaving Marlatt to serve as superintendent in Clay County. Assistant Principal Shiela Stephens will assume the position.

Mindy Sanders is leaving Lee Elementary to serve as a principal at McKinley Elementary in Abilene. Assistant Principal Erica Bammes was named head principal.

This month, Lori Martin announced she will step down as principal of Frank Bergman Elementary. The school district has not yet announced a timeline or a replacement for Martin.


Staff photo by Matt Lunsford  

A robin sings while perched on a deck on Leavenworth Street after severe thunderstorms passed through the area on Tuesday.


News
No imminent flood threat, but preparedness stressed at special city commission meeting

Officials told the Manhattan City Commission Tuesday they’re prepared in case Tuttle Creek Lake floods.

The commission was not scheduled to meet, but after recent weather, a majority of commissioners voted to hold the meeting, which was only announced Tuesday morning.

Public works director Rob Ott assured the commission that he has not heard of any plans to open the Tuttle Creek Lake spillway gates.

“I want to make crystal clear, we’re going to talk about a lot of scenarios, but there’s nothing forecasted in the next three days,” Ott said.

Despite the lack of any imminent threat of flooding, Ott said the risk of flooding will be a concern for the foreseeable future.

Right now, Tuttle Creek Lake has used about 1.3 million acre-feet of water in its flood control space. Even if the Corps released water at a rate of 16,000 cubic feet per second, it would still take at least 42 days for the flood control space to drain, Ott said.

“What I want everyone to understand is that even if it quits raining for a couple of days, the Corps is not going to magically drain down that lake in a short amount of time without inducing damages downstream,” Ott said. “We’re in for the long haul this summer, and that’s what I want folks to understand.”

Tuttle Creek Lake holds about 25 percent of the flood storage for the lower Kansas River, Ott said.

Potential action

Manhattan Fire Department chief Scott French briefed the commission on the city’s emergency preparations, should any flooding occur. When the lake’s water level reached 1,116 feet above sea level, a unified emergency management command — including representatives from the city and Riley and Pottawatomie counties — started meeting weekly.

As of Wednesday, the lake elevation sits at 1,126.92 feet above sea level, about 51.92 feet above its normal pool.

Since the water level reached 1,126 feet, that group will now meet daily at 7 a.m., French said.

“We’ve been meeting, going over things that need to be done,” French said. “As the lake has increased, our preparedness has begun to amp up. We’re at the point now, 1,126 feet, where we’re meeting on a daily basis and creating these objectives of making sure that our maps are up-to-date, that our staff who may be going out to do evacuation notices know what their roles will be, and creating good checkpoints for all of our staff.”

French said it was important for citizens to be able to distinguish between flash flood and flood warnings, especially based on their proximity to either Wildcat Creek or the Big Blue River.

At 1,132 feet above sea level, the city will begin to order resources from the State Emergency Operations Center, but before that, the city would reach out to other cities and counties in the area for resources like light towers or signage.

“We’re really beginning to amp up and prepare from the government perspective,” French said. “We’re asking citizens to continue to prepare. There’s not necessarily a need to overreact at this point, but preparation at this point on will continue to increase and going from preparing to actions.”

If the lake reaches 1,134 feet above sea level, the emergency operations staff starts more serious preparedness, like opening up shelters and issuing advisories for specific locations, French said. French listed three types of advisories that might be issued. Under a high water advisory, city staff begins to inform citizens in flood-prone areas about the risk of flooding via the city’s communication channels and door-to-door canvassing.

Under an evacuation advisory, the city’s flood modeling has indicated that water might flood citizens’ houses or cover roadways and isolate them, so the city advises citizens to evacuate while they have the opportunity using the same communication platforms, in addition to roadside signage.

If an evacuation order is issued, the fire department will focus on evacuation and notices, French said, and they will remain on standby for any potential water rescue needs. Law enforcement will focus on traffic management, orderly evacuations and security.

“When we ask people (to evacuate), there’s an expectation that when they leave, they’re not going to have looters or anyone else come back in their homes, so we have a responsibility to make sure that law enforcement is there to manage that,” French said.

If residents are ordered to evacuate, they should be prepared to be gone four-to-six weeks, Ott said. He said residents should find out their level of risk based on where they live and collect important items, such as electronics, valuable documents and other irreplaceable items.

If evacuations are ordered, city staff will be able to use a smartphone app to collect info — such as number of people per household, contact information, flood insurance information, pet data and temporary addresses — and forward that to the emergency operations center. For that reason, officials said data will be available much faster than in previous emergency events.

If needed, the city has identified 2,600 beds available in shelters for displaced citizens.

Ott said much of the city’s data is still very raw, so staff is working on refining some of the data that is presented to the public.

The city developed 42 different scenarios to help coordinate the preparedness efforts, including contingency planning for the wastewater treatment plant.

If the Kansas River blocks the plant’s outflow point, the city installed pumps this week that could pump the plant’s treated sewage output over the levee to make sure sewage doesn’t back up into Manhattan homes.

In another scenario where water is released from Tuttle Creek Lake, some of the city’s water wells would be underwater and out of operation.

At that point, the city would issue a conservation order. Ott said in that scenario, enough water would still be available for cooking, cleaning and bathing purposes, but irrigation uses would likely be discouraged.

If citizens ignore those orders and draw too much water from the water tower, water pressure would be reduced, and the city would be forced to issue a boil advisory, which would complicate an already complex situation, Ott said.


News
No water releases expected following Tuttle Creek Lake rise of 1 foot

Tuttle Creek Lake rose just over a foot within 24 hours as of Wednesday morning and a total of 3.04 feet since Saturday, but lake officials said they don’t expect to increase releases “in the forseeable future.”

The lake now stands at 1,126.92 feet above sea level, inching the lake closer to the point of water releases and to 1,136 feet, the level at which U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials would open the spillway gates.

Corps officials said they are keeping to minimum outflows, and although no water releases are expected from the tubes or spillway in the near future, the rising water has triggered measures like more frequent meetings with local authorities to discuss the potential for an emergency flood response.

Inflow to the lake was at 24,000 cubic feet per second Wednesday morning, with a minimum discharge of 200 cubic feet per second to avoid flooding areas downstream. The Corps is keeping a close eye on river conditions downstream at Waverly, Missouri, on the Missouri River — into which Tuttle Creek Lake flows by way of the Big Blue and Kansas rivers.

On Tuesday, Brian McNulty, project operations manager for the Corps at the lake, said that the Corps could release more water from Tuttle Creek if the lake reaches 1,128.3 feet as long as the Waverly gauge showed flows of less than 180,000 cubic feet per second. As of 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, that gauge reported a discharge of 311,000 cubic feet per second.

Rain is in the forecast for the region over the next days, with Manhattan set to receive an additional round of showers starting Wednesday night and chances of thunderstorms through early next week. McNulty said Tuesday that lake officials do not anticipate the lake to rise to 1,128.3 feet despite the forecast.

The lake still has almost 25 percent of its flood control space available.

The Corps is hosting a public meeting to discuss the potential for flooding between 7 and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Manhattan Fire Station headquarters at 2000 Denison Ave.