River appears to have crested; Halstead schools back in session

Halstead Fire Chief Jim VanSchaick measures the depth of the Little Arkansas River from the Main Street bridge Friday morning. It read 21.1 feet, which was lower than it was Thursday evening.

HALSTEAD—The Little Arkansas River level in Halstead appears to have stopped rising.

At 8:30 Friday morning, Halstead Fire Chief Jim VanSchaick measured the river depth at 21.1 feet, which he said had held steady from the last measurement several hours before. He said the highest measurement he had taken was 21.3 feet on Thursday evening, also noting that he believed the report of a measurement of 21.55 feet was inaccurate.

The floodgate on Halstead Road remains closed, with water having crept up the road to the south side. Once the water has left the roadway and stays off it will be reopened.

“It doesn’t take much to open,” VanSchaick said. “Everybody’s just got to grab a sandbag.”

He added that no harm had been done by not shutting the railroad gate east of town, which was a possibility the city had seriously considered on Thursday.

“It’s a roll of the dice sometimes,” he said.

Halstead-Bentley schools were back in session Friday after having been canceled Thursday. Superintendent Tom Alstrom said he knew some rural students hadn’t been able to come and felt bad for them.

“People think it’s an easy decision to cancel school, but sometimes you have to sit back think about all 758 kids and what’s best for each of them,” he said. “Was this choice good for all 758? Maybe not. But some were water-locked (in Halstead) regardless.”

Of the district’s four bus routes, one was not able to run and one only ran partially. In addition, the special education bus to Newton didn’t run.

Alstrom added that several teachers who lived outside of Halstead had been unable to come Friday.

With graduation this weekend, Alstrom said it was important for seniors to get all their finals completed and that some students had detoured to the south to make sure they could attend and wrap everything up.

Graduation is still set to take place at 4 p.m. this Saturday, and Alstrom said he hopes Highway 50 will be reopened by then so that relatives and friends from outside of Halstead will be able to get into town via Spring Lake Road.

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