Hours before the midway was set to open at the Johnson County fair, multiple pumps were draining several inches of standing water that had surrounded rides and food vendor booths.
And fair officials said the eight pumps will be ready to run again, as needed, to make sure fairgoers aren’t trudging through puddles when more rain comes this week.
On Monday morning, fair board president Larry Vandenberg didn’t know how bad the flooding was; he just knew he was going to need his rain boots. When Vandenberg made his way through the midway, he was relieved. The flooding was actually minimal and manageable, and he was confident the pumps would be able to drain the midway by 5 p.m., Vandenberg said.
Franklin was under a flood watch Monday, after about 2 inches of rain fell in less than four hours, flooding some Franklin streets and the fairgrounds, said Stephanie Sichting, director of Johnson County Emergency Management.
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Sichting is monitoring the weather for the rest of the week after a second wave of storms arrived Monday afternoon. More rain is possible tonight, Thursday and Friday evening, and expected on Saturday.
By noon Monday, Vandenberg had three additional water pumps on the way to the fairgrounds, adding to the five already pumping standing water out of the midway. The additional pumps allowed for the area to dry up faster and keep up with additional rainfall throughout the day, Vandeberg said.
“We got a lot of rain — lots of rain,” Vandenberg said. “But we have pumps here just in case this happened. This could have been a lot worse than it already was.”
Vandenberg has kept an eye on the forecast as the week of the fair approached. With a chance for more rain later in the week, the water pumps will stay at the fairgrounds, Vandenberg said.
Fair board members put a plan in place in the event of heavy rain.
The drainage system at the fairgrounds pushes all of the water to the north and south. But the drainage system can’t handle all of the water in an event like Monday, or rain on consecutive days, so the pumps are kept at the fairgrounds all week, Vandenberg said. Vandenberg and other fair board members have the pumps set up to carry excess water from the fairgrounds to as many as four separate locations, Vandenberg said.
“We will shut the pumps off and leave them in place — we can keep up with (the rain) then. We don’t want people walking in water,” Vandenberg said. “We want to get the midway dry, because that’s the money generator — it’s our top priority.”
Last year, a drainage pipe that carries water away from the fairgrounds was broken. So, when heavy rain came the week before the fair, the damaged pipe backed up water onto the fairgrounds, leaving much of the area saturated and wet, Vandenberg said. But that pipe has since been repaired, allowing water to drain from the fairgrounds more efficiently, Vandenberg said.
If that pipe had not been repaired before this year’s fair, Monday morning’s rain could have severely flooded the midway and other areas of the fairgrounds, Vandenberg said.
Heavy rainfall won’t affect any of the indoor events at the fair, though it might close off some areas where people can park, Vandenberg said. Whether the midway stays open during rain is up to the amusement company operating the rides, Vandenberg said.