WICHITA, Kansas – You’ve seen it dry the last two years. Now the “big ditch” is a raging river.
“It’s certainly not at capacity,” says Scott Lindebak with the City of Wichita. “But we’ve been so dry the last two years. We’ve been able to do a lot of maintenance in the floodways, keeping them open and clear so this storm we are more prepared than probably in other years.”
The big ditch is not quite at half capacity.
“The floodway is doing its job,” explains Lindebak. “it’s at about 40 percent capacity right now so we have a lot more capacity that can be diverted to the big ditch through the different floodways.”
Lindebak says about two-thirds comes from Harvey and McPherson counties to the north and one-third from the big Arkansas coming out of Hutchinson.
“It was completed back in 1959,” says Lindebak. “It is certainly working.”
But even with all the rains, we’ve had bigger rain events than we are seeing now. Recently.
“2007 and 2008 were greater events than what we are experiencing now,” says Lindebak. “Downtown would be under water without the big ditch. The Little (Arkansas) river would have flooded and would have inundated Riverside neighborhoods as well as the downtown area.”
Riverside water is high, but under control. There are two “diversion” sites upstream, one in Valley Center.
It’s unlikely the flood control system called the “big ditch” will overflow. But, everyone is keeping an eye on the skies for localized flooding.
“Depends on how much rainfall we receive,” says Lindebak. “It’s always possible to get some severe flooding. Especially locally, because the water just can not get off the city streets fast enough.”