Protecting Topeka's Most Vulnerable From Highest River In Decade

(WIBW/Justin Surrency)
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- After continuous rain overnight and into the morning, the Kansas River has risen enough for Shawnee Co. Emergency Management to take action. As of Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service measured the river at 16 feet - or, to put it another way, the highest it's been since 2004.

While area homes and businesses look to be in the clear, they're taking action to alert the homeless who live in camps along the Kansas River banks.

"We are thinking if the water is going to come up by 3 feet or more it could get into this area," said Shawnee Co. Emergency Management's Dave Sterbenz. "There are individuals that don't have emergency devices and we have to watch out for them and deal with them the best we can."

Officials urged people on the banks to evacuate sooner, rather than later - preferably by nightfall.

"It will be dark outside and that complicates things, plus it will be difficult locating people in an area that's basically a muddy trail," said Shawn Kimble of the Topeka Police Dept.

Nearly a dozen people take shelter along the banks and, despite the possibility of floods, it's not easy for them to pick up and move.

Members of the Topeka Rescue Mission Street Reach team are out along the Kansas River banks monitoring the situation in case they need to alert local law enforcement in the event of an evacuation.