The Leavenworth area saw both its second- and fourth-worst floods on record in 2019, wreaking havoc along the riverfront and shutting down Riverfront Park for the year.
The Missouri River reaches minor flood stage in the Leavenworth area at 20 feet, moderate at 24 feet and major at 30 feet. On March 23, 2019, the river crested at 31.3 feet, the second-highest level recorded in the city’s history, according to the National Weather Service. Only 1993 was worse, when the river surged to 35.3 feet that July.
Water needed only to reach around 22.3 feet before it started entering Riverfront Park, a campground near Centennial Bridge that offers sites for tents and recreational vehicles typically from April through October.
The park was already underwater when the season opened. After the river crested again June 1 at 28.66 feet, Leavenworth city commissioners made the decision in July not to attempt to open the campground last year.
Landing Park was another casualty to last year’s flooding. After it closed in March, city officials briefly reopened it in May but were forced to close it again. It finally reopened in July.
There was no such luck for Riverfront Park. Leavenworth officials were planning to reopen it this year. While NOAA officials predicted widespread flooding again this spring, it’s not expected to be as severe or prolonged as in 2019, with moderate flooding considered more likely.
City Manager Paul Kramer was optimistic residents and visitors would get use of the park this year. “It was going to be ready to go,” he said.
But now those plans are on hold, not because of flooding. This time it’s concern over the coronavirus that’s closed the park until further notice.
Meanwhile, even the moderate flooding that’s anticipated could cause problems in Leavenworth County because levees damaged by last year’s flooding still have not been repaired, said Kim Buchanan, the county’s deputy director of emergency management.
The unknown variable to this year’s outlook is precipitation, she said, noting that the area saw a high level of rain last year.