By Mike Kessinger
Hays Daily News – May 25, 2016
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When Janell Underwood woke up Tuesday morning she could have never imagined the first thing her husband Chad would tell her.
It just isn’t something anyone would expect to hear.
“My husband woke up at 6 and I got up a little after that,” she said. “He came to me and said ‘We have a river running through the yard.’ ”
Sure enough. In a way, the Underwoods — who live north of Hays on Saline River Road — did have a river running through and around their home. Due to a heavy downpour of rain Monday night and into Tuesday, north and to the northwest of the house, the river, not far from their home had overflown its banks.
Water surrounded the house, preventing the Underwoods from being able to go anywhere without help.
“There were logs floating in the yard,” Janell said.
Ellis County Emergency Management Coordinator Bill Ring said reports he received told him counties to the north and west of Ellis County had gotten up to 5 or 6 inches during the night and the river had filled. The overflowing forced the county emergency service to close several roads in the northern part of Ellis County on Tuesday. Another issue of the overflow was large logs and other debris jamming up under county bridges, causing more problems of water running over the banks.
“I’m sure it was a real eye-opener for (the Underwoods) to look out and see that,” Ring said.
In contact with Jeff Hutton from the National Weather Service in Dodge City through most of the day, Ring said Hutton told him a gauge north of WaKeeney on the Saline River had water moving at 4,000 square cubic feet per second. That alone was enough to cause the jamming under bridges and pushing water over the banks. The water was rising and Ring said he didn’t know for sure how far west the rain had been along the river.
Janell Underwood immediately called the Emergency Management Offices and an initial group of first responders were out to their home within 20 minutes. Once the responders’ team was all to the Underwoods, there were members from the rural fire department, road and bridge, sheriff’s office and emergency services. The Underwoods and their three dogs were lifted across the water. Janell said their youngest daughter had stayed in Hays overnight.
“I was panicking quite a bit,” Janell said of their situation Tuesday morning. “We had a rushing river going around our house. My husband wasn’t as worried as I was. I had never seen anything like this.”
The Underwoods were told at the earliest they wouldn’t be able to get in around their home until at least 24 hours, or until the river subsides. They went by the house around 1 p.m. and Janell said there was still quite a bit of water moving through the yard.
“We are just so thankful to the first responders,” Janell said. “When I called the lady I talked to said she’s been working there for 30 years and she has never heard anything like this. She stayed on the phone with me until the (responders) got here.”
After the Emergency Service teams left the house they went out around the roads closing off spots to transportation they found water had come over the road. They were also patrolling the area and asking people they saw if they needed anything. The Underwood home, Ring said, was the only place that had been flooded around it.
The Underwoods stayed at Janell’s father’s place in Schoenchen on Tuesday night and she was hopeful they would get to check on the house today. While they were in the house, no water had gotten into the interior of their place.
As for the flooding, Ring said it’s a wait on the water level to go down before they can begin the cleanup process.
“A lot of debris gets caught under the bridges,” Ring said. “Once the water subsides, we’ll start grappling with all those logs and debris under there.”
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