Halstead closes first floodgate

HALSTEAD—One of Halstead’s three levee gates has been closed due to flooding, and the city plans to close a second one later today (Thursday).

As of 9 a.m. Thursday, the Little Arkansas River in Halstead was measured at 19.2 feet. Of the three levee gates in Halstead, the one on Halstead Road closes at 19 feet, the one across the railroad tracks east of town close at 20 feet, and the Main Street gate closes at 22 feet.

A crew of about 20 firefighters and city maintenance workers closed the gate on Halstead Road (County Road 801) at about 10 a.m., reinforcing it with a two-foot wall of sandbags. Several dozen Halstead residents stood atop the levee watching the spectacle.

A truck drives through high water on Hertzler Road north of Halstead Thursday morning. The road is closed to traffic, and Fire Chief Jim VanSchaick advises against driving through high water.

City crews plan to shut the railroad gate east of Halstead later this morning, which will be just the second time it’s ever been closed according to Fire Chief Jim VanSchaick. The other time was in 2007.

The two main roads connecting Halstead to Highway 50—Hertzler Road (K89) and Halstead Road—were both closed to traffic Thursday morning due to water covering the roadways. VanSchaick recommended travelers take 36th Street west to Spring Lake Road or Burmac Road to access the highway.

VanSchaick warned residents to stay out of the water and that drivers should not try to pass through flood roadways.

VanSchaick said his department had worked one water rescue so far. A man in a four-wheel-drive pickup had become stuck in three or four feet of water north of Harvey County West Park at about 9 a.m. Thursday morning.

Halstead-Bentley USD 440 closed school Thursday due to the high water and road closures.

Superintendent Tom Alstrom said after he’d heard Hertzler Road was underwater early Thursday morning, he still planned to hold school, but then at 6:40 a.m. he got a call that Halstead Road was closing too. With both roads north of town impassable, plus county roads being a pain, he decided to cancel classes.

“Some weren’t happy that we had to cancel so late, but we can’t control the weather,” he said.

Thursday had been scheduled as seniors’ last day of classes, and Alstrom said some of them still have finals they need to take in order to graduate on Saturday. He hoped they would be able to do this Friday, adding he did not want to postpone graduation because there is no good date to move it to.

Alstrom said he had a meeting Thursday afternoon to try to figure out a plan for tomorrow. He said one possibility would be to just have classes for students in town and not run the bus routes, which is something he said he’s never done in all his time as a superintendent.

Alstrom also noted that this was the first time in his seven years as USD 440 superintendent that Halstead had closed schools due to flooding.

The Little Arkansas River at Riverside Park is overflowing its banks, with the swinging bridge partially underwater as well.

For K-11th students, Alstrom said he didn’t expect them to have to make up a day since the district had only used two of its snow days this winter.

Halstead City Superintendent, center, lines up the Halstead Road gates as firefighters close them Thursday morning.
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