A severe storm system swept across northwest Kansas on Memorial Day, causing multiple tornado reports and flash flooding. Much of the area remained under a flash flood warning this morning, as additional rainfall is forecast this afternoon.
A dramatic video taken by the Graham County Sheriff B. Cole Presley and posted to social media around 8 p.m. Monday shows a torrent of water rushing down U.S. Highway 283 just south of Hill City. A large metal outbuilding can be seen in the video floating slowly down a residential street.
Emergency officers in Graham County were called out to help evacuate people affected by the flooding, Presley said in his video.
The highway was closed shortly before 5 p.m. due to the flooding between Hill City and WaKeeney, with 5 inches of rain reported near Hill City as of 5 p.m., according to information from the National Weather Service in Goodland.
Over a foot of standing water had been reported on roads south of Hill City by 2:30 p.m., and rain continued to fall through the evening.
The NWS had forecast the Saline River to crest overnight Monday at nearly 25 feet at the U.S. 283 bridge. The previous record had been 19.4 feet, according to information from Trego County Emergency Management.
Officials urge residents to avoid traveling in flooded areas, as water can be much deeper than it appears and moving vehicles quickly can be swept away by moving water.
“There could be several feet of water across roads in that area of the county as it makes its way downstream,” Emergency Management Coordinator Kathleen Fabrizius posted on social media. “Do not cross flooded roads.”
Almost 6 inches of rain was reported from the storm just southwest of WaKeeney, with 7 inches north of Penokee, an unincorporated community in Graham County. Approximately 6.5 inches was reported southeast of Collyer on the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network.
Localized flooding also was reported on city streets in Ellis on Monday evening by the county’s emergency management coordinator Darin Meyers. Flooding also was reported on several county roads in the northwest portion of Ellis County, and crews are in the process of monitoring roads and blocking off unsafe areas this morning. Drivers are urged to use extra caution if driving in rural areas.
Rain reports reached almost 4 inches near the city of Ellis, with most of the county receiving less than 2 inches.
A tornado was reported by a spotter 11 miles south of Hill City shortly after 1 p.m., with high wind gusts causing problems in other parts of northwest Kansas. Another funnel cloud also was reported near Speed in Phillips County.
Several semi-trucks reportedly were blown over just a few miles west of WaKeeney on Interstate 70, and another trailer was knocked over by the wind on U.S. 283 near the Ness and Hodgeman county line.
Further south, grain bins near Dighton were blown off of their foundations, left in a pile, according to damage reports received by the NWS.
Gusts of 60 mph were reported in Ness County, with 56 mph wind recorded at Hays Regional Airport. Winds near Bogue in Graham County reached 70 mph.
Large hail posed an additional threat, with stones up to 2.5-inches wide reported about 6 miles south of Hill City, and there were multiple reports of golf-ball sized hail near McDonald in Rawlins County.
Nearly 2-inch hail was reported just south of Quinter in Gove County, which also was hit hard by a severe storm and large hail about a week ago.
The forecast today calls for additional rain and possible thunderstorms throughout the day for much of northwest Kansas.