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June rains flood Winona, wash out railroad tracks





WINONA -- Just a month ago, northwest Kansas residents were talking drought. Exceptional drought, in fact.

Now, the talk has turned to floods. Not everywhere, of course, but especially along the Smoky Hill River, where heavy rains seem to have fallen in recent days.

Suffice it to say, there are unconfirmed reports of huge rainfall amounts in recent days, leading to flooding along the Smoky.

Gove County Sheriff Allen Weber reported instances of 8-plus inches of rainfall in Gove County, according to George "Pappy" Lies, emergency management director for both Gove and Logan counties. Those heavy rains fell Sunday.

Those heavy rains and the resulting floods were enough to prompt both the Gove and Logan county commissions to sign disaster declarations.

"We had 5 inches of rain and flooding in Winona," said Dave Lamb, a vice president at The Bank of Winona and a member of the city council.

Those rains flooded homes, businesses and basements in approximately a quarter of the community, Lies said.

"Here at The Bank, the west one-third of the building, the water came in," Lamb said. "We had mud, worms and water."

Bank employees spent much of Sunday and Monday vacuuming the water and cleaning up the mess.

Residents elsewhere in both Logan and Gove counties likely faced the same challenge thanks to the heavy rain.

An apparent tornado in south-central Gove County on Saturday night destroyed at least one outbuilding and caused extensive damage to two other buildings, Lies said.

The heavy rains prompted several highway closings because of water flowing over the road.

It also washed out a section of the Union Pacific Railroad track near where Kansas Highway 25 meets up with U.S. Highway 40 west of Monument.

"We still don't have any trains running," Lies said.

In Winona, Lamb said the city hopes to start talking with Logan County and the railroad to find a solution to the town's drainage problems.

This isn't the first time homes have been flooded in the wake of heavy rains, he said.

"We had the same thing happen two years ago," Lamb said, as well as at least once in the 1990s. "At least three to four times in the last 20 years.

"Something's changed. I don't know what. We're getting a lot of water from the west."