Jacobs Creek Flood
|Duration||August 30, 2003|
|Fatalities||6 dead in Kansas|
|Damages||$250,000 in property damage|
|Kansas Turnpike (I-35) 11 miles (18 km) south of Emporia, Kansas|
The Jacobs Creek Flood, also referred to as the Kansas Turnpike Flash Flood, was a flash flood of the Jacobs Creek that occurred on the night of August 30, 2003, 11 miles (18 km) southwest of Emporia, Kansas, on the Kansas Turnpike (Interstate 35). The deadly flash flood occurred on Labor Day weekend and killed six people, five inside of vehicles swept away by the floodwaters and one person who was attempting to rescue those trapped.
August 30, 2003 flood
From 7:00 to 8:00 pm, a slow-moving, low-topped storm with very heavy rainfall rates developed over central Kansas, remaining over eastern Chase and western Lyon counties for several hours. The rain rate over the headwaters of Jacobs Creek is estimated to be several inches per hour with almost 6 inches (15 cm) of estimated total rainfall by 8:00 pm.
At 8:30 pm, the culvert carrying Jacobs Creek reached capacity and the flowing water began to accumulate behind the elevated embankment of the Kansas Turnpike. Water begins to spill onto the northbound lanes of the interstate.
9:00 PM: The accumulating water from Jacobs Creek crosses the northbound lanes and begins to accumulate against the barriers dividing northbound and southbound traffic. Cars in the northbound lanes begin to stall and traffic is blocked. Within the next 30 minutes, the water level reaches the top of the median barriers and begins spilling into the southbound lanes of the turnpike. People begin to abandon flooded vehicles.
At 9:30 pm, the force of the accumulated water spilling over the median barriers caused 12 of them to collapse, and the backed-up water surged over the roadway, carrying seven vehicles downstream into Jacobs Creek. Total rainfall was estimated to be from 6 inches (15 cm) to 8 inches (20 cm) and the peak flow of Jacobs Creek at the Kansas Turnpike was estimated to be 4,100 cubic feet per second (120 m3/s).
The flash flooding of Jacobs Creek at the Kansas Turnpike killed four children and their mother, as well as another man who was killed after rescuing four people trapped in their vehicles. In addition, it caused approximately $250,000 worth of property damage along the creek.
Water remained high in Jacobs Creek downstream of the turnpike for several days, impeding recovery efforts. Severely damaged vehicles and victims from the flood were found as far as 2 miles (3.2 km) away from the turnpike. The final victim was recovered on September 2 in a retention pond.
A memorial was constructed at the Matfield Green Rest Area on the Kansas Turnpike just southwest of Jacobs Creek. Of particular mention by the memorial is Al Larsen, the individual killed while trying to rescue other trapped motorists. At a ceremony unveiling the memorial, then-governor Kathleen Sebelius recognized the actions of Larsen as well as Ryan Lane, who helped with the rescue efforts and survived the flood.
The event is used as a case study in a training module by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and is analyzed in detail by a paper published in the National Weather Association Digest (referenced in this article).
- J.D. Vitale, J.T. Moore, C.E. Graves, & M. Kelsh. "Hydrometeorological Aspects of the Kansas Turnpike Flash Flood of 30-31 August 2003". National Weather Association Digest. Retrieved 2011-07-01.
- "All Victims Found". Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved 2011-07-01.
- "Memorial park, monument unveiled". Topeka Capital-Journal, via bNET. Retrieved 2011-07-01.