Although our community has endured several floods through out its history, many Augusta residents had a difficult time believing that a flood was possible the last weekend of October 1998.
Reports from City officials, who were getting their information from the National Weather Bureau, indicated that the projected crest of the Whitewater River would be below the top of the levee and Augusta would be safe.
By Sunday, some areas of South Central Kansas had received up to 11 inches of rain, with 6 to 10 inches common in most places.
Many residents and business owners spent the day moving items to higher ground and sandbagging - all in hopes that the flood waters would not come.
But just before dark that Sunday night, there were reports that there was water surrounding the Waste Water Treatment Plant in the south part of town. The next reports indicated water was flowing over the top of the dike north of Highway 54, on the west side of the city.
That night and next day became a blur for many local residents as they watched their homes and businesses devastated by water, mud and debris.
Eventually, record flooding would take place in the Whitewater and the Walnut, along with other area rivers. Fortunately, no lives were lost in Butler County.
But for many residents, life was changed forever. In Augusta, the flood destroyed 650 houses, 92 businesses and two mobile home parks.
One of the hardest hit residential areas was Meadowview Acres, west of Garvin Park. A large portion of the area, now void of houses, was once a neighborhood filled with nice homes and families.
A promise for increased flood protection finally became a reality on June 22, 2012 when the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Levee Enhancement Project was held.
At the groundbreaking ceremony Ross Rountree, mayor in 1998, who led the city through one of its darkest times, was happy and relieved to see the new levee system being built. “It means so much to me to be able to participate in this ceremony marking the official start of something we began dreaming of some 13 years ago. It has been a long and somewhat arduous journey.”
Rountree credited former City Council members, Army Corps of Engineers, Mayor Williams, current council members, former City Manager Bill Keefer, former Congressman Todd Tiahrt and his aide, former Augustan Chuck Knapp in helping the project become a reality.
The new project added 2,500 feet to the total length of the 4 mile system and a 5 foot height increase.
The new levee represents a $9.9 million investment, with 65 percent funded by the Army Corps of Engineers and the rest matched by Augusta and partners.