Barton County using new tool for flooding

GREAT BEND, Kansas — Tracking what areas are at risk of flooding can be tough but now Barton County has a new way to see where high water will go and who could be affected.

Officials are going from old maps to new technology in their fight against flood waters. They are now using a new contouring system using LIDAR, which stands for light detection and ranging. The process is more precise in showing land elevation which determines where water will flow.

“It’s so much easier to see because there’s just so many more contours, instead of looking at just one contour for a whole, you can see five lines instead of one so that helps,” said Clark Rusco a Barton County Engineer.

The old maps are less detailed and only show every five to ten feet of elevation while these newer maps done with the LIDAR contours show every two feet of elevation and are a lot more detailed.

“It really does help and you know a lot of the people who have been through floods will know that you might have a five inch rain and the water will go one way and you may have a six inch rain and it’ll be completely different,” said Rusco.

Ellinwood residents have battled floods several times in the past six years and Rusco says the new LIDAR contour maps can help city contractors predict which areas could be at risk.

“The Ellinwood flows were not that huge of an event and so it was hard to pick that up because of the crops and stuff,” said Rusco. “It’s hard to see where those little drainage swells are and those drainage swells change with farming practices. So with the smaller rainfall event’s it’s harder to tell.”

With western Kansas being so flat, Rusco says the extra detail helps with his job.

“It’s really nice to have. I know it’s just the amount of information you get, it’s just when it’s flat just to have good information. It’s just much better and it really spoils you,” said Rusco.

Barton County has had the LIDAR contour maps for a year and more Kansas counties are expected to get the detailed maps in the future.

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