Great Flood of 1951
In mid-July 1951, heavy rains led to a lot of water in the Kansas River. Flooding happened in the Kansas, Neosho, Marais Des Cygnes, and Verdigris river basins. There was more than $935 million in damage in eastern Kansas and Missouri in June and July 1951. Adjusting for inflation, it would be nearly $8.52 billion in 2016. The flood killed 17 people. It caused 518,000 people to move somewhere else.
The flood in Kansas started in May. It started with the flood of the Big Creek, (a tributary of the Smoky Hill River) in Hays. It flooded after eleven inches of rain in two hours. The creek overflowed. It flooded Hays (where Fort Hays State University is) in four feet of water. It flooded the Fort Hays State University campus. It caused people to move from the barracks (by families of the G.I. Bill) and dorms to the Stadium's third floor. The Stadium's third floor was still dry. Dr. Charles F. Wiest, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and Religion, and his seven-year-old daughter died. They died when their home caved in with the weight of the water. He was saving important documents in his basement. All records at the college were ruined. No graduation was held on the appointed date of May 23. Graduates were mailed their diplomas a month later.
There were no warning sirens in Hays. Two police officers drove up and down the streets. They had their sirens on, and they shouted for people to evacuate. They are believed to haven saved many people's lives.
The worst starting damage by the flood crest was to Manhattan and Ft. Riley. Barracks at the fort were destroyed. In Manhattan, the downtown business district was under 8 feet (2.4 m) of water and 2 people died. After this, Topeka and Lawrence were also damaged by the same crest. About 24,000 people were evacuated from Topeka.
- NOAA Article on the 1951 Flood
- NOAA Report (PDF) on the 1951 flood with a comparison to the 1993 flood
- Access documents, photographs, and other primary sources on Kansas Memory, the Kansas State Historical Society's digital portal
- Article from Kansas State Board of Agriculture 1951/52 Biennial Report on the 1951 Flood