Lightning closely watched during Cowley carnival, fair

West Central Avenue faced strong currents Friday morning as more than 2 inches of rain fell in a short time around downtown Arkansas City. Some of the bricks near Cowley College were displaced and will need to be reassembled before the area can be used again. The West Madison Avenue underpass was closed for a while as waist-deep water made the road unpassable until the rain subsided. Wind gusts reached 25 to 30 mph and downed some tree limbs on West Madison Avenue which were cleared by city personnel, according to radio communications.

The lightning displays and claps of thunder Thursday night are more than just natural entertainment to add to the excitement of the Cowley County Fair. 

Lightning is always a cause for concern at the fair and at the carnival, fair board member Dan Defore said. 

“Lightning or a heavy rain will shut us down,” Defore said. At least three machines at the fairground monitor the lightning, he said. 

Danny Ottaway, owner of Ottaway Amusements, which runs the carnival, has a monitor to protect the rides and by extension, the riders, Defore said. 

Cowley County Civil Defense also brings a monitor with it and checks it throughout the fair. The fair board itself bought their own monitor to keep an eye on things. 

“We have three people monitoring the lightning throughout the fair,” Defore said. “It isn’t a matter of someone’s opinion (whether they need to shut down the fair or the rides). They use the monitors to make those decisions.”

The three inches of rain that fell overnight Thursday on downtown Winfield left the fairgrounds muddy but passable. Additional rain forecast for Friday night and Saturday adds to the muck, though the ground is drier than it was when the floods came so it is absorbing the rain better. Still, Cowley County Fair organizers are warning visitors to watch where they park to avoid getting stuck in the mud. That is true whether bringing just a vehicle or a vehicle and an RV.

Though the Walnut River looked high at noon Friday, it was down from 7.5 feet at 10 a.m. to 6.62 feet at 4:30 p.m., according to Jason Kazban of Cowley County Emergency Management. Emergency Management is not expecting floods, Kazban said.

The National Weather Service at Wichita had a flash flood watch in place until 7 a.m. Saturday. Chance of thunderstorms is 30 percent during the day Saturday and 70 percent Saturday night. 

Temperatures are predicted to be in the low to mid-80s during the day and down to the mid-60s at night, pretty good weather for wandering the midway and the barns or taking in the grandstand events.

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