The month of May was an all-timer in Kansas, as sites across the state recorded rain on all but two days. The deluge broke state and local rainfall records as well as setting several high water marks in Kansas’ rivers, streams, and reservoirs.
It rained, it poured, the old man snored
May, June and July are historically Kansas’ wettest months. But this May was by far the wettest on record, which goes back 125 years.
In fact, it was the wettest month ever recorded — period. The previous record was set in June 1951.
The prolonged period of rain also helped set several local records.
On May 8, 8.22 inches of rain were measured in the south central Kansas town of Wellington, besting the previous record for rainfall in a 24-hour period of 6.52 inches set on June 21, 1942.
In the northeast corner of the state, Horton also set a 24-hour rainfall record: 9.42 inches on May 24.
Two hundred daily records, meaning the most amount of rain to ever fall on a particular day, were also set.
In addition, 19 weather stations in the state recorded monthly totals of more than 20 inches of rain.
Volunteer weather watchers with the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network station in Rose Hill, just south of Wichita, took top honors, recording more than 30 inches of rain in the month of May.
The rainfall was uneven across the state, but followed typical patterns — drier in the west, wetter in the east. At the extremes, southeast Kansas stations averaged 17 inches of rain for the month, while west central Kansas stations averaged only 5.31 inches, which is still 175% of normal rainfall for the region in May.
Rivers, streams, and reservoirs full up
All of the rain has to go somewhere. With much of the ground already saturated from April showers, most of it ended up in a Kansas river or stream, making pit stops in flood control reservoirs along its way downstream toward the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.
The amount of water moving through the system was as high as anything the U.S. Geological Survey’s Kansas Water Science Center has ever seen.
Reservoirs including Tuttle Creek Lake, Perry Lake, Milford Lake, and Cheney Lake came near to or exceeded their capacity.
Between April 29 and June 3, 104 of 136 streamgages in the state exceeded flood stage. Fifteen sites were above flood stage for at least 20 days.
While it’s still too early to assess overall impacts, experts say there will likely be extensive erosion and sedimentation issues from the increased flows.
Rain, rain could come again another day
The first week of June has been much drier than May and has allowed stream and reservoir levels to slowly drop back down. While the drier weather has provided much needed respite for people with flooded fields and basements, the chance for even more flooding persists.
With already saturated ground and reservoirs that are still mostly full, even a normal amount of rain in June could bring back flooding. And the forecast doesn’t offer much comfort.
The National Weather Service June forecast predicts a 50% chance for above normal rain in June.
Brian Grimmett reports on the environment and energy for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @briangrimmett or email grimmett (at) kmuw (dot) org.
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