City truck

A tarped city truck, loaded with sandbags, is parked between Five Guys and Chick-Fil-A in east Manhattan on Monday morning.

Q: I’ve noticed several tarped city trucks parked around town? What are they and why are they there?

A: With summer construction well underway, there’s been a flurry of city-branded vehicles all around Manhattan, but one tarped truck in particular has been parked in the lot between Chick-Fil-A and Five Guys.

That truck is part of the city’s flood-fighting efforts, said Vivienne Uccello, city public information officer, and it’s the only tarped truck that’s been parked for a few days. When the Kansas River is high, the city has to close its downtown drainage outlets, creating a bathtub-like effect in the area.

That means that any further rainwater is trapped downtown, and flooding becomes an issue particularly along the drainage channel (called “pretty ditch” by some city officials) that runs along Tuttle Creek Boulevard.

Heavy rain last week prompted the partial closure of Frontage Road on the other side of the ditch, and city workers were out pumping water from the ditch sending it over the levee and keeping an eye on the water level over the weekend, Uccello said.

The truck remains because it’s loaded with sandbags, which city workers could use if backwater from the Kansas River becomes an issue. City and county officials have recommended homeowners against relying on sandbags to contain rising floodwaters, but there are a few reasons sandbags would work downtown and not necessarily in flood-prone areas like the Northview neighborhood.

“(Downtown), backwater would last for a few hours, not weeks like there would be if there was flooding in the Northview area,” Uccello said. “This (downtown) backwater also would not have a lot of velocity to it, so it would not wash away sandbags.”

With the Kansas River’s level continuing to fall, Uccello said the city will likely move the truck over the next few days.

To submit a question, send by email to questions@themercury.com, or by regular mail to Questions, P.O. Box 787 Manhattan, KS 66505.

Education reporter for the Manhattan Mercury. Follow me on Twitter at @byRafaelGarcia.