Online map of Wildcat Creek prepares residents for potential floods


Manhattan residents now have access to a new flood warning system online.

Over the last year, the city of Manhattan teamed up with state and federal officials to create a new flood warning system with localized flood maps available online, according to an Aug. 31 post on the city’s website. The committee in charge has been meeting monthly since the flood of June 2011 that caused many residents to have to evacuate their homes.

“We have had two events of flooding in recent years [in Manhattan], one in June of 2010 and one last June,” said Chad Omitt, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “These events caused property loss to the west side of the city.”

These floods prompted the action of the committee, but Omitt said flooding is not the norm and the committee does not expect regular floods.

“The committee’s work will be summarized in a floodplain management plan,” said Brian Rast, senior planner and senior project manager in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “The plan promotes a better understanding of the flood hazards, decisions made on flood risk management, public participation and provides a formal action plan on what will be done next and when.”

The new flood plan was created with the hope that members of the community will be better prepared for possible flood disasters.

“One goal of the project was to help communities become more weather-ready,” said Lynn Maximuk, director of the National Weather Service’s central region.

A flood, however, may not be an immediate danger due to the lower-than-average rainfall this year. Omitt said that the lack of rain has qualified Manhattan as being under a severe drought that will not be remedied until 6 to 8 inches of rain fall.

Flooding is still a long-term concern because the city of Manhattan is located on a floodplain where the Kansas and Big Blue rivers meet. The new maps, however, focus on another body of water in Manhattan — Wildcat Creek.

As a part of the program to bring these maps to the public, three new flood gauges were placed on Wildcat Creek. These locations are at Scenic Drive, Seth Child Road and near Keats, Kan., located five miles west of Manhattan. These gauges will help researchers use the amount of water that falls to
create a timeline that forecasts how high the river will get and when.

“When the Topeka National Weather Service issues forecasts for the Wildcat Creek area … residents and emergency responders will be able to open the map and see what those stages mean to them,” Maximuk said.

With flood maps online, people will be able to gauge for themselves the risk of floods in the area.

“One of the great things [about the maps] is when you go to the website you are able to see what is forecast to flood and how much it will flood,” Omitt said. “It is a powerful cue to the people. They can see what the height of the river means.”

These maps will not only help the general public but also the Riley County Police and Fire departments, according to Chad Bunger, planner for the city’s community development board.

“[They] are now able to better plan for flood events,” Bunger said. “Using the map library, they are able to determine foot by foot of flooding, which areas of town will be impacted, what properties will most likely need to be evacuated and which streets need to be closed.” 

The interactive map showing Wildcat Creek and the water level at any point along the creek is available at;=top&gage;=mwck1. The link and information are also available on the city of Manhattan website at