A misty overcast engulfed Kansas City today, a lingering reminder of torrential rains that caused the worst flooding here in more than a quarter of a century. At least 13 persons were killed and dozens more were missing.
Hundreds were left homeless as water from normally docile streams and backed up sewer systems smashed into their houses.
The powerful torrents swept through the streets, flooding intersections. Scores of motorists were rescued from car cops, some by police and firemen using boats, others by individuals who happened along and risked their lives to help. This morning abandoned cars could be seen scattered along city streets - many of them overturned and others dashed into trees and toehr obstructions.
There were no official damage estimates available as the tasks of cleaning up the mud and other debris began, but local, state and federal officials were surveying the area in anticipation of requesting federal disaster aid.
The flooding was caused by more than 11 inches of rain between midnight Sunday and midnight Monday. Some unofficial measurements showed more than 15 inches of rain in that period. Most of the rain came in two bursts that each dumped more than five inches of water on the city. The first lasted from midnight Sunday until about dawn; the second fell from early Monday evening until midnight. The heavy rains were often accompanied by spectaular lightning, crashing thunder, driving winds and thick fogs.
Hardest hit by the flooding was the Country Club Plaza area, a nationally known cluster of shops, restaurants and apartment buildings catering to the affluent. Warer and mud caused severe damage to the stocks of several stores in the area: a fire triggered by what a deputy fire chief called a "terrific explosion" caused by leaking gas destroyed at least six business in one block. There were reports of scattered looting, and police with rifles moved into the plaza area Monday night.
Many work-bound Kansas Citians could not get close to the destroyed block this morning. Instead, all they could see of the plaza was the flood damage around the area's boundaries.
There, the smartly designed buildings, oftern cited for their European-style architecture, looked like parts of a city that had been ravaged by war. Several cars were piled in one part of city-owned tennis courts.
"In all of my born days, in all of my experience on the job I haven't seen anything like this," Deputy Fire Chief Dennie Imperiale said.
Miller Nichols, chairman of the company that own plaz property, called the devastation a "catastrophe."
Most of the dead, including one entire four-member family, perished when they were swept from cars stranded in flood-swollen streets. The family members were reportedly trying to reach their suburb home when their car was swept into a creek.
Police theorized that many of the other victims had been out sightseeing and were trapped by the high waters.
Authorities were concerned that several drowning victims may still be found in basement parking gargaes.
While damage in the Country Club Plaza area was the most visible to residents of Kansas City, suburbs to the west and east also took a heavy flood beating.
Across the state line in northeast Johnson County, Kan., hundreds of homes were damaged. The stituation was much the same in the Independence, Mo., area cast of the city.
Kansas City's worst previous flood occurred in 1951. Then, the death toll was much lower but property was heavily damaged in industrial parts of the city. This flood hit homeowners and shopkeepers most extensively.
The Kansas River was out of its banks but expected to crest at 3.5 feet above flood stage of 23 feet late tonight. The Big Blue River crested about 17 flet above flood level at noon in eastern Kansas City.
The Missouri River was expected to crest at three feet above level at the Hannibal Bridge in Kansas City.