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Heavy rainfall ends drought, floods Bethel buildings

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN.– When the two-plus-year drought in south-central Kansas underwent a swift reverse at the end of July, Bethel College took a watery hit.

For the first time in the memory of anyone currently on campus, the Kidron-Martin Canal on the north side of campus, meant to drain runoff water from the campus and nearby residential areas into Sand Creek, ran over the adjacent access road and flowed into the Memorial Hall basement and Thresher Gym.

Of the five buildings affected, the gym, Mem Hall and Goering Hall to the north, which houses athletic department offices, weight training rooms and locker rooms, sustained the most serious damage.

A team of campus and community members, including Bethel President Perry White and his wife Dalene, worked late into the night July 29-30 to clear the water from the gym floor

Krehbiel Science Center had some water in the concrete-floored basement, while the Haury residence hall had water up to its east side door. Allen Wedel, vice president for business affairs, and Les Goerzen, physical plant director, were also up late, placing enough sandbags around the door to prevent damage to all but a few newly laid carpet tiles inside.

In the past year, extensive renovations on campus included a new drainage system in the area between the residence halls, which “worked precisely as it was designed to,” said President White. “There was just no place for the water to go.”

This was because the canal and Sand Creek were running so high from nearly 4.5 inches of rain over the space of 2-3 hours on the evening of July 29, with the ground already saturated from more rain the previous weekend.

College officials were waiting for insurance adjusters and gym flooring specialists to give official assessments of the damage, but with 1-2 inches of water trapped underneath the Thresher Gym floor, it is likely it will have to be replaced.

“We have been in contact with City of North Newton and Harvey County officials,” said White, “and are hopeful that they will assist us and represent us to the state for our recovery efforts.”

The Western District Conference annual meeting, Aug. 1-3 on the Bethel campus, will go on as scheduled, with only one meeting room changed from the Mem Hall basement to another area.

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2012-13 analysis of premier colleges and universities in the United States and ranks in the top five “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2012-13. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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