UPDATED: Peabody sandbags downtown; Marion water contaminated but deemed safe
Volunteers, mainly from Peabody fire department, sandbagged a block’s worth of downtown stores Saturday afternoon after an unrelenting thunderstorm dropped nearly nine inches of rain and sent water into as many as a dozen businesses there.
Meanwhile, in Marion, low levels of dangerous microcystin toxins from blue-green algae in Marion Reservoir were detected late Friday in Marion drinking water, which still is deemed safe but is being monitored closely.
At midday Saturday in Peabody, floodwater still had not receded on S. Olive St. and S. Maple St., and water continued vigorously bubbling up from manhole covers as sandbaggers protected stores against renewed flooding from an additional inch or more of rain forecast for Saturday night and Sunday.
Red Cross workers were at Brown Gymnasium, feeding the sandbagging crew.
Earlier, residents of S. Olive St. in Peabody were evacuated, and Peabody Christian Church was opened as a temporary shelter after underpasses, streets, and some county roads flooded.
With multiple lightning strikes, swirling winds in excess of 40 mph, and inch-size hail, the storm stalled over the southern portion of Marion County for 4½ hours.
Less extreme rainfall, generally less than two inches, was reported in the central part of the county, but wind damage was reported as far away as Marion, where fallen tree branches collapsed storage sheds, and Marion County Lake, where the top was blown off a camper.
Peabody firefighters and ambulance crews had to move their vehicles out of their stations during the storm to keep them from flooding.
Multiple residents reported that their rain gauges had overflowed. Measured amounts put the rainfall anywhere between 3½ and 9 inches, with Wichita weather radar indicating potential rainfall totals of 12 inches in some locations.
Meanwhile, in Marion, state health officials issued an advisory Friday about city drinking water, which also is provided to Marion County Lake, but emphasized that the level of toxins was below what would trigger a warning.
They said the toxin level remained below what has been established by global health authorities as safe for the least tolerant group, bottle-fed infants and children younger than 6.
Microcystins are known to cause liver damage in sufficient concentrations. City and state workers were continuing to monitor the situation Saturday.
Other toxins from blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, include some potent neurotoxins that have been linked to deaths of humans and animals. There was no word on whether any of these were present.
Likewise, no impact was reported on Hillsboro or Peabody water, which also comes from the reservoir, where a blue-green algae warning was renewed Thursday. The county lake, which has been under one sort of advisory or another since May 1, remains under a less-significant blue-green algae watch.
Some residents expressed concern Saturday about whether Marion water was safe for pets. Animals may have lower tolerances for algae toxins than humans do. However, there was no word from state officials, other than a statement that the water was safe for all purposes.
As of midafternoon Saturday, no warnings, advisories, or other notices about the water problem had been posted on Marion’s city website or social media pages, where the most recent posting was from May 28, and no news releases had been issued by city officials.