The town of Niobrara in northeast Nebraska’s Knox County is at ground zero for serious flooding — sitting at the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers.
Water levels are expected to hit record highs with huge snowpacks melting up stream and water gushing from reserviors. John Moore, chair of the village board in Niobrara, says problems abound.
“We’re concerned with our basic infrastructure, our sewer system being in danger, our water wells sit down in the river bottom,” Moore says. “We’re concerned with those being inundated or totally wiped out. We have an elementary school that sits very near where the water’s going to come up to.”
Moore says he’s also worried about the community’s finances.
“We’re concerned with the economic wellbeing of the whole town because we’re a tourist town and we totally depend on our state park and our tourists coming to use the river,” Moore says. “They’re now telling us our highways are all going to be closed in and out of town.”
He says the high water is already threatening Niobrara’s lifeblood.
“Without tourists coming here, who’s going to buy our food and water and groceries and gasoline and everything that keeps our town going?” Moore asks. “We’re a pretty small town. We’re only 300 people. That is our sole industry here, tourism.”
Governor Dave Heineman was in Niobrara a day ago and says it appears the region is in for a long-lasting disaster.
“This is going to be a 100-year, 500-year flood, there’s no question about it,” Heineman says. “I’m very concerned it’s going to be a very serious situation that we’re going to face, along with our neighbors in Iowa, South Dakota. In most of our lifetimes, this is going to be the largest and potentially the most devastating flood that we’re ever going to see.”
Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton