Officials watching for surge into Missouri River from Platte River flooding

Officials watching for surge into Missouri River from Platte River flooding
The Missouri River floods in Plattsmouth.

NEBRASKA CITY – Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts declared a state of emergency for the state dealing with flooding in the east and blizzard conditions in the west and central.

Locally, Richardson County Emergency Management issued a voluntary evacuation for the Missouri River in Rulo and the Lewis and Clark Estates Thursday morning.

The Plattsmouth Police Department denied access to the Randall W. Schilling Wildlife Management Area and the city water treatment plant Thursday due to the Missouri River flowing out of it’s banks and over roads. The water plant was inundated by the rising flood water and forced to shut down. All non-sanitary, non-essential use of water must be discontinued. The city has an emergency connection with Cass County Rural Water District to provide water on a short-term, restricted-use basis.

Several campers in a nearby RV park were either surrounded by or sitting in water. There was no mention from local officials about anyone being stranded in the RV park. A Lincoln man, seen using binoculars to look towards the park, was frustrated he wasn’t able to remove his family’s camper because they weren’t notified about the rising river. He said water was about a foot away from his parents’ RV.

No emergencies or evacuations have been issued in Nebraska City, but Otoe County Emergency Management Director Greg Goebel says they’re watching the debris from the Platte River and how much it will raise the Missouri River, because once the river adds more water it’ll back up the creeks and streams in the town of more than 7,000 people.

“They’re working very hard to break up ice jams with dynamite. Once that breaks up, that’s going to cause a surge. That surge is going to run down to the confluence where it meets the Missouri River and the Missouri is going to come up some more.”

The emergency management office has been in contact with Nebraska Emergency Management Association, Department of Roads and elected officials to make sure everybody is up to speed and knows what is going on. If this becomes a situation where they have to declare an emergency, they’ll be ready, Goebel said.

During a flooding event like this, it’s a good idea to pay attention to local media and be prepared to take quick action, according to Emergency Management Deputy Director Steve Cody.

“This time of the year when the ground is still frozen and it rains really hard, the water just runs off super fast. We can get these flash flood events really quick, because the water isn’t going to soak in. Everything is all soaked in already and the creeks are already high.”

Flood warnings remain in effect until Thursday evening for southeast Nebraska and southwest Iowa counties. The Missouri River is in a flood warning until further notice, affecting southeast Nebraska, southwest Iowa and northwest Missouri.

Floods continue in Nebraska, Iowa on Thursday

Towns in Nebraska and western Iowa are being inundated by rising floodwaters, with residents across the region being evacuated as levees break or rivers overflow their banks.

Roads were closed across the state as they became impassible, and people displaced by the waters took shelter in hospitals, schools and other community buildings. To check out current flooding conditions, click here.

Army increasing water releases at Gavins Point Dam

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said at midday Thursday that it was increasing water releases at Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, South Dakota, to 50,000 cubic feet per second and plan to increase it again to 60,000 cfs later Thursday or Friday.

Officials said runoff between Fort Randall and Gavins Point Dam is very high and continues to increase because of snowmelt, heavy rain and wet soil.

“We know there are communities experiencing flooding, or nearing that condition, along the Missouri downstream of our dams,” said John Remus, chief of the corps’ Missouri River Water Management Division in Omaha. “We are managing releases from Gavins Point as judiciously as we can in order to lessen the impact downstream.”

Nebraska roads submerged; westbound I-80 closed at Grand Island

Click here to see the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s live map.

In southeast Washington County, flooded roadways were causing problems, said Washington County Chief Deputy Sheriff Kevin Willis.

“We’re seeing trouble spots in the Arlington area, with Bell Creek and the Elkhorn River overflowing,” Willis said. “(U.S.) Highway 30 is closed by the water.”

County Road 34 east of Fort Calhoun is closed by Missouri River floodwaters, Willis said.

In western Iowa, large stretches of Interstate that were closed Thursday morning because of flooding were open Thursday afternoon. Interstate 29 had been closed in both directions from exit 55 at 25th Street in Council Bluffs to exit 75 at U.S. Highway 30 in Missouri Valley.

​In addition, U.S. Highway 30, which was closed in both directions between Missouri Valley and Dunlap, Iowa, was open Thursday afternoon.

Snow in western Nebraska and westbound traffic filling up parking lots in Kearney prompted the Nebraska State Patrol to close westbound Interstate 80 from Grand Island to Wyoming after noon Thursday. Eastbound I-80 was closed from Wyoming to Ogallala. State roads in the Panhandle remained closed at midday.

Most state highways in north-central and northeast Nebraska have some closures because of flooding.

Rain, snow will keep falling

The giant storm that moved into Nebraska was the product of a rare phenomenon called bombogenesis, or bomb cyclone.

A winter storm warning remains in effect until 10 p.m. Thursday for several counties in northeast Nebraska. The National Weather Service in Valley forecast called for 1 to 4 inches of snow in Boone, Madison, Antelope, Pierce and Knox Counties.

Winds gusting from 50 to 60 mph could produce near-blizzard conditions, forecasters said. Cities in the path of the storm include Creighton, Bloomfield, Crofton, Verdigre, Niobrara, Elgin, Pierce, Albion and Norfolk.

In Omaha, it was 37 degrees about 2:45 p.m. Meteorologist Corey Mead of the National Weather Service office in Valley said the temperature would continue to drop throughout the day as a cold air mass moves through.

Mead predicted that no snow would accumulate, and less than a half-inch of rain was expected.

On Wednesday, .78 inches of rain fell at Eppley Airfield. After the rain ended, the sun came out and temperatures rose, topping out at 60 degrees.

“Winds (Thursday) are going to be quite strong,” Mead said. “We’re looking at winds from 35 to 40 mph, possibly gusting up to 50.”

The chances for precipitation Thursday are strongest in northeast Nebraska, said Paul Walker, a meteorologist with AccuWeather. Up to 4 inches of snow is expected to accumulate along the Nebraska-South Dakota border, he said.

Over the weekend, temperatures are predicted to rise across the state, and dry conditions should prevail, Walker said. High temperatures in the region will be in the 40s Friday and Saturday before pushing up to 50 on Sunday.

“It should be a much quieter (weather) weekend in Nebraska as that massive storm moves on into eastern Minnesota and then Wisconsin,” Walker said. “Eastern Nebraska will have a lot less wind as well.”

Red Cross setting up shelters across the area; emergency lines open

Red Cross shelters have been set up in Fremont, Norfolk, North Loup and Randolph. In western Iowa, the Red Cross had set up shelters at Salem United Methodist Church in Council Bluffs.

The Nebraska State Patrol Highway Helpline is available 24 hours per day for motorists in need of assistance. Drivers can reach NSP by dialing *55 from any cell phone or 911 in an emergency.

World-Herald staff writers Alia Conley and Kevin Cole contributed to this report, which includes information from the World-Herald News Service.

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