Remember when radio was the link to breaking local news? That was the way it was 48 ½ years ago on Sunday night, June 19, 1965, when Kinsley Mayor Jim Heinz spoke over radio station KGNO at Dodge City, declaring a state of emergency. The rampaging Arkansas River would soon hit the city over a mile south of its natural banks.
Darkness increased the anxiety as no one was able to see the water until it was quite close. Floodwaters reached the south edge of the city limits about 12:45 a.m., spreading out over the airport and the football field. By 3 a.m. water began spilling over US Hwy 50 near the bowling alley. Mayor Heinz ordered the evacuation of the southeast part of the city.
The big water hit at 4 a.m. flooding the city south of the railroad tracks in about ½ hour. Flood waters ranged from 6” to 4’. Strong currents swept through the streets carrying logs and other debris. Stiff winds pushed the water through the city and maintained its peak throughout Monday. Highways were closed, the hospital and nursing home evacuated.
This was by far the worst flood in memory and there would never be another like it to date. But it and subsequent flooding of the Coon Creeks in the 1970’s would lead the city to seek solutions to flooding issues. Stay tuned for more interesting facts and tidbits about how Kinsley has been “Navigating Rough Waters” since 1965.
I see I made a typing mistake and used the inch symbol instead of the foot symbol. Sorry, I didn’t catch that when I proofread. It should have been 3.8’ (feet) to 17.2’ (feet) in 15 minutes. That looks more like a flood doesn’t it?
I’m looking at a Hutchinson News special edition dated July 4, 1965 which reads, “They’ll never forget the Granddaddy of Ark Floods,” and I am wondering how many of you do remember it 48 years later? It all started on June 14, 1965 in Colorado with torrential rains, wind and a tornado. For 3 days it rained and the tributaries flooded into the Arkansas River and raced east dealing death and destruction from La Junta on into all the western Kansas towns and cities along the river. The waters reached Dodge City on June 19 and observers reported that it rose from 3.8” to 17.2” in 15 minutes. About 1500 residents had to evacuate the area. Now the river was pregnant with the tons of debris it had picked up on its 270-mile route when it reached Kinsley the morning of June 21. The Arkansas River flooding was exacerbated by Coon Creek whose water backed up into the city blocking highways from 3 directions.
I’ll be telling you more about this flood in the days to come, as it will be the beginning of our film’s story. We are very lucky to be able to include actual movie footage of the 1965 flood taken from the top of the elevator by Marvin Ryan. That is just one of the exciting aspect of this project as it seeks to rescue and preserve the memories, images and document which record the flooding issues as Turning Points in Kinsley’s history. Perhaps your memory or photo album can contribute to our understanding of this flood and any subsequent ones or the many attempts of the city to meet the challenges of living in a flood plain.
The Kinsley Library is embarking on a new project with the Kansas Humanities Council. We will be producing “Navigating Rough Waters,” a movie about how living in a flood plain has impacted the community. This film is part of the KHC short film initiation, “Turning Points: Stories of Change” which will premiere in Kinsley next spring. This blog will keep you up to date as we gather information and photographs, film interviews with people who lived through or tried to deal with flooding issues, and as we put together a gala premiere event. You’ll want to stay connected to this project!