As life-giving as water can be, it can also be dangerous. High water can threaten both life and property in a matter of seconds. When we take a look back at a flooding incident that occurred on the Turnpike in 2003, we are reminded how powerful water can be.
Several inches of rain in the days leading up to this tragic event saturated soil and caused significant flooding around Jacobs Creek, which runs under the Turnpike near Emporia. The water overtopped the highway and moved with such force that it caused cement barriers in the median to break loose. These cement barriers can weigh between 10,000 to 20,000 pounds, so the water had to have a tremendous amount of weight and momentum to wash away these barriers.
Let us take a deeper look into the numbers. It was estimated that the water was rushing at about 4,000 cubic feet per second. That is a lot of water to be moving in one second. If we think about 4,000 cubic feet in terms of volume, a container of that size would hold 29,922.08 gallons of water. To put this into perspective, your average backyard swimming pool holds between 18,000 to 20,000 gallons of water.
Not only was it a tremendous amount of water rushing over the highway in a matter of seconds, but it also carried unimaginable weight. It takes 240 gallons of water to reach 1 ton. One ton is equivalent to 2,000 pounds. That means the water that rushed across the Turnpike that day, weighed at least 124.68 tons!
We use this as just one example to show how powerful water can be. When moisture streams in from the Gulf of Mexico, it creates the perfect conditions for heavy rain which can lead to flooding across the Sunflower State. It is important to make sure you and your family have a plan in place for what to do if you or your home encounters flooding. This can include having nonperishable food items for you and your pets, having a place to evacuate if you live in a flood-prone area, purchasing flood insurance, and heeding evacuation orders if one is issued.
Flash Flood Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for water to rise rapidly. Flash Flood Warnings are issued when flooding is occurring, and you need to get to higher ground. Always make sure to turn away from flooded roadways. Staying updated with the latest Storm Track 3 Forecast is critical to keeping you and your family safe.
No matter how big or heavy your vehicle may be, it only takes between 1 to 2 feet of moving water to sweep away cars and semis. Half a foot of water can knock a person off his or her feet. You cannot be sure if the road under flood waters is still there or whether or not there may be debris that could become hazardous.
Take the time to turn around and find another route to get to your destination safely.
Join us tonight on KSN News 3 at 10 for a special report looking back at the tragedy on the Turnpike and the power of flooding.
— Meteorologist Erika Paige