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Topeka reflects on 70th anniversary on 1951 flood

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 6:48 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The 1951 flood marked a watershed moment in Topeka history.

A plaque at the Great Overland Station shows how high water reached inside the building.

Gary Lady was six years old.

“I do remember the flood, I remember my mom making sandwiches and taking them down to the workers and I remember the flood was pretty high,” he recalled.

Sarah Teefley with the National Service said the region was going through a historic time.

“The area received record rainfall during the spring and summer seasons so May, June and July saw record rainfall across the region,” she said.

“That resulted in record river stages along the Kansas River and several others in the area and because of that we saw widespread flooding impacts including here in Topeka.”

She said the flood called for renewed calls for safety efforts.

“At that time the Kansas River Basin itself only had five federal flood control dams in place since that time and especially,” she explained.

“After the flooding in ’51 there was a big increase in support for better protection from flooding and so now we have 18 dams and reservoirs across the Kansas River Basin that help prevents that type of flooding.”

North Topeka was one of the hardest-hit areas during flooding.

Over the past decade, North Kansas Avenue has finally bounced back into the NTO arts district

Lady, who’s a vendor at Kaw River Rustics said he’s grateful the neighborhood overcame flood devastation to reach its potential.

“We go along with the disasters and we rebuild that’s what we do,” he said.

“It’s taken a long time lots of people down here in north Topeka working hard to where it’s at today and there’s still a lot of people working hard to make it even better.”

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