OSAWATOMIE, Kan. -- Flooding worsened yesterday across parts of Kansas and Missouri, forcing more people from their homes, and meteorologists said it could be days before rivers return to normal after days of drenching rainfall on the Plains.
The Kansas National Guard was sent to help with a mandatory evacuation of Osawatomie, a town of 4,600, as the overflowing Pottawatomie Creek inundated neighborhoods and workers struggled to reinforce a levee on the Marais des Cygnes River.
"They came and told us to leave at 6:30 this morning," said Shanda Dehay, 17. "We weren't able to get anything out. These clothes I'm wearing are my aunt's."
Despite the order, residents in rowboats surveyed the damage, which included homes that were half underwater and nearly submerged vehicles.
The river reached 49 feet late yesterday, just short of the record level of 50.3 feet, said Maren Stoflet, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Pleasant Hill.
"It's going to be a few days before we get some of the higher rivers to come down," Stoflet said, adding that the Marais des Cygne might not begin receding at La Cygne and Osawatomie until late Wednesday or early Thursday.
Storms across the southern Plains have claimed 11 lives in Texas since more than a week ago, and two Texans were missing.
Texas has gotten some of the worst of the lingering storm system, with the weather service measuring more than 11 inches of rain in June at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, about a half-inch short of the 1928 record. The town of Marble Falls collected about 18 inches in one night last week.
Kansas officials also were preparing for additional flooding at Independence and Coffeyville along the Verdigris River, which already had reached record levels, as the Army Corps of Engineers planned to open floodgates at the Elk City and Fall River Toronto Lake reservoirs upstream.
The Verdigris River at Independence rose to a record 52.4 feet yesterday morning, shattering the old mark of 47.6 feet and more than 20 feet above flood stage.
The Neosho River was expected to set a record late yesterday, cresting at 40.5 feet at Erie in Neosho County, where officials had already evacuated residents. Flood stage is 29 feet.
"It's pretty unbelievable," said Robb Lawson, a weather service meteorologist in Wichita.
In Missouri, the Little Osage and Marmeton rivers were well above flood stage and still rising in some spots yesterday, said Jim Taggart, a weather service hydrologist in Springfield.
John Campbell, an operations manager for the State Emergency Management, said there have been some evacuations in Bates County. Numerous roads were closed in southwest Missouri.
Highways across wide areas of Oklahoma also remained closed yesterday because of flood damage.
Amtrak's Heartland Flyer passenger rail system between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth was halted yesterday because of flooding in north Texas, and passengers were bused instead, said Terry Angier, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
In north Texas, hundreds of residents near the overflowing Wichita and Brazos rivers remained evacuated from their homes yesterday, uncertain of when they could return.
Some residents had been allowed to return Saturday, but hours later authorities encouraged them to seek higher ground as water released from flood gates on upstream dams moved downstream, said Shawn Scott, Parker County emergency management coordinator.
The Brazos River was expected to crest early today before falling below flood stage during the day, Parker County spokesman Joel Kertok said.
Wichita Falls officials had urged residents of low-lying areas to leave Friday and weren't sure when they could return because of concerns about contaminants in the water, city spokesman Barry Levy said.
Wichita River levels were slowly dropping yesterday after leaving some areas under 6 feet of water, the National Weather Service said.
Voluntary evacuations were conducted Saturday in Iola, Kan., which was partly under water. East of Iola, emergency workers rescued two teenagers from atop a pickup truck that became wedged against a tree at a low-water crossing in Crawford State Park.