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Crews building physical model to better identify flooding risks along Indian Creek

indian creek physical model.jpg
Posted at 8:30 AM, Jan 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-07 09:42:51-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In September 2019, the Kansas City, Missouri, demolished the strip mall near 103rd Street and Wornall Road.

It was torn down to make way for a green space that will absorb water from Indian Creek, which flooded repeatedly over the past several years.

Now, something is under construction, but it's not something you'll notice driving by.

KCMO, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, is funding a $400,000 project to build a physical model of Indian Creek inside a facility downtown.

"Normally, we will model flooding with computer models,” Tom Kimes said. “So we have computer models for Indian Creek that identified areas of flooding, but computer models can't always tell the whole story.”

Kimes is the manager for storm water engineering for KC Water.

The department decided to build a physical model of the area to better identify flood risks.

“We can more accurately determine how people are getting flooding and what risks are associated with that area,” Kimes said. “There’ll actually be water flowing through the physical model. We have computer-aided routers that are going through creating the terrain surface, so it’s going to work like a scaled version of what’s out there in the field.”

The model will be about 70 feet long and 25 feet wide.

“We're going to be pumping water into it, taking measurements along with the physical model to see what those depths are and calibrating it to what it actually happens to see how water’s traveling over land,” Kimes said. "What we think was happening with Indian Creek is water was actually escaping from the channel itself and it was leaving a different area and flooding going over land down 103rd Street and up Wornall Rd. and some other areas. And the computer model can't track the water that accurately. You can't figure out once it leaves the channel what happens to that water."

Kimes said it’s an innovative approach the city is using.

“We used to use physical models in the past,” Kimes said. “Brush Creek — the flood control project that a lot of people are familiar with along the Plaza was actually physically modeled by the Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, Mississippi. And a lot of the recommendations that they came up with came out of that study.”

Kimes said there are more sophisticated ways to build physical models today.

“We can model the terrain and put it into a machine that can cut the model for us, instead of trying to build it by hand out of concrete,” he said. “That gives us very accurate answers and gives us more complete picture of how the community is flooding.”

The model, which is in its very early stages, should take about three months to complete.

Once risks are identified, recommendations on how to alleviate flooding in the future will be sent to KCMO.