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.