July 6, 2015

Water levels dropping but threats from flooding remain high

Flooding LOGOEmergency management officials in central and western Nebraska are keeping a close watch on water levels along the Platte River as recent rains have pushed the waterway out of its banks in many areas.

Darrin Lewis, emergency management director for Buffalo County, says the threat is still there.

“Emergency management has been out checking the Platte River from Elm Creek to Shelton,” Lewis says. “The river is still up high, it is still in flood stage and we are still in a flood warning,” though he adds, the river is starting to drop. Despite the slowly falling levels, Lewis says that doesn’t mean there’s no danger.

“We’re hoping we’re going to drop below flood stage in the next few days and the flood warning will go away,” Lewis says. “We don’t want people to drop their guard because we know there’s more water coming our direction that will probably push us back into the flood stage and flood warning again.”

Lewis says it may be several weeks before river levels return to normal. The latest weather models show continued chances for off-and-on showers and thunderstorms heading into June.

By Brent Wiethorn, KKPR, Kearney


Feds do damage assessment in 10 counties after severe storms

Tornado damage in Roseland earlier this month

Tornado damage in Roseland earlier this month

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency is requesting the Federal Emergency Management Agency work with NEMA and local emergency managers on joint damage assessments in ten southeast Nebraska counties.

Those counties sustained heavy rain, hail, wind and flood damage from tornadoes and severe storms between May 3rd and May 11th.

The counties are: Gage, Saline, Jefferson, Thayer, Lancaster, Otoe, Saunders, Cass, Adams and Nuckolls Counties.

Bryan Tuma, assistant director of Nebraska Emergency Management, says three counties, in particular, seemed to sustain the most public facility damage.

“There’s no doubt Thayer, Saline and Jefferson County were probably the hardest-hit counties,” Tuma says. “A lot of the road infrastructure, bridges, culverts were impacted significantly. A lot of transportation infrastructure was significantly impacted.”

FEMA damage assessment teams will be working in the region beginning next week to determine if federal assistance is needed to supplement state assistance. The State of Nebraska also requested assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help determine the extent of private property damage from the severe weather and flooding.

Tuma said that assessment is underway and may last through Friday.

“Next week, we will have representatives from FEMA, they will come in and start doing damage assessments, focused in on public infrastructure primarily and to identify the damage and what type of cost we’re looking at,” Tuma says. “Once those assessments are completed, we’ll know whether we’re positioned to make a request for a federal declaration.”

Tuma says the ten counties apparently have met the public damage threshold to be eligible for federal assistance, based on preliminary figures submitted by cities and counties.

“At this point, we’re not going to release any preliminary damage assessment figures but obviously, our threshhold is 2.5-million and we think that we would be eligible to at least be considered for a disaster declaration,” Tuma says. “It is in the millions of dollars.”

The SBA assessment this week is examining homes, personal property and businesses that have been impacted by the severe storms and flooding. That information will be submitted to the state, which will seek an SBA disaster declaration. That could make private property owners eligible for low-interest loans to aid in recovery.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice


Stormy Friday and Saturday forecast

Right on schedule, storms are starting to pop up in Nebraska today.   Jim Meyer is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Valley and says it appears the most severe weather will be in the central part of the state. He says the storms today will be sporadic.

Meyer says, “We are basically in this thing off and on I would say, look for another shot on Saturday. It might be more of the same. The cold front will actually come through so it won’t be exactly like today. I think the storms that develop along that front will be defined a little bit better as they track along that area and then hopefully that front will clear things out of here and give us a break on Sunday.

Meyer says the severity of these storms will likely be hail and strong wind but this time of year you can’t rule out the possibility of a tornado.

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday will be dry but there is a chance of more rain on Wednesday and Wednesday night.

First flood-related death reported in Fairbury area

Police car lightsRescuers in Jefferson County have found the body of an 86-year-old woman in her flooded basement near Fairbury.

A search was conducted starting early Thursday for the body of Betty McMullen of rural Fairbury who had been missing.

The Jefferson County sheriff says the search started around the woman’s flood-surrounded home, but had to be suspended due to treacherous conditions.

Firefighters had searched the flooded basement initially but didn’t find anyone.

Rescue teams returned to the basement last night, but had the same result.

Water was pumped out of the basement this morning and the body was discovered about 10 AM.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice


Flooded farmers may be forced to replant, weekend weather is key

Flooded fields near Deshler

Flooded fields near Deshler

Many acres of farmland in Saline and Jefferson counties are underwater after this week’s heavy rains, particularly the downpours that came along with severe weather on Wednesday.

Saline County Extension Educator Randy Pryor says the extent of damage to the newly planted crops will be known next week.

“Seeds that are sitting there underwater that are just starting to sprout, it depends on temperatures,” Pryor says. “Things were a little on the cooler side, so with respiration and oxygen need, the seeds can last a little longer. If things are underwater two or more days, that two-to-four day period would cause us to completely replant areas. They just aren’t going to make it.

Some areas of Saline County received ten to thirteen inches of rain. Pryor says hopefully the flood waters will drop over the next few days.

“Farmers are going to know next week,” he says. “Hopefully things will recede and dry out. When these waterlogged areas are fit for replanting, they’re going to see what made it and what didn’t.

Despite the deep floodwaters, Pryor says farmers may be pleasantly surprised by how much of the crop can still survive if the water moves out this weekend.

If there is one good thing about this week’s flood, Pryor says the fact that it occurred in the month of May is good news. Had this flood hit in mid-June, there might not have been enough time to replant and still produce a viable crop this year.

By Dave Niedfeldt, KWBE, Beatrice