NIOBRARA, Neb. — Spring rains and increased releases from dams on the Missouri River have combined to cause owners of homes and cabins along the river between Niobrara and Verdel to be evacuated.
“There are probably 50 to 60 places that are being affected. But at least they had a chance to move things out,” said Bill Salmen of Verdel.
Salmen and his wife, Robin, are former Norfolk residents who live in Verdel. They bought the Blue Moon restaurant and bar there, but they haven't had to evacuate.
“My house is pretty high up, and I think the bar is going to be OK,” he said Thursday. “But we don't know what's still coming.”
Laura Hintz, Knox County emergency manager, said some cabins between Niobrara and Verdel had some water around them, including the Lazy River Acres area.
Hintz said Niobrara itself, since it was last moved in the 1970s, is on much higher ground and most of the town is safe from any flooding concerns.
The main areas of concern in Niobrara are the school, the sewer lagoon and the golf course, she said.
Bob Olson, village clerk in Niobrara, said the sewer lagoon is a concern because it is on the banks of the Missouri River. The lagoon contains wastewater.
“The (river) flow may be higher than the dike,” Olson said. “We don't know at this point.”
Residents and officials were taking a “wait-and-see” approach, Olson said.
That's what Jerry Fritz, supervisor of the Niobrara office of the Nebraska Department of Roads, also was doing.
“This is kind of unusual. We don't usually see water coming up to the highway this way,” he said Thursday.
It's possible, Fritz said, that Highway 12 may need to be temporarily closed. “We're getting ready for that possibility — probably not today but maybe Friday,” he said.
Earlier this week, the Army Corps of Engineers announced heavy rain across Montana and the Dakotas, coupled with above-normal snowpack, have pushed reservoirs to a level that calls for aggressive water releases from Missouri River dams.
It's almost certain that Niobrara's golf course will be flooded, Olson said. The golf course is where the old town was in the mid-1970s.
The town's first move took place following a flood in 1881. The second move took place in the mid-1970s.
Olson said the elementary school could be flooded, and there are concerns about the village's well field, which is in a low area. There are some berms that may protect it, he said.
Marcus Wacker of Norfolk, who has a cabin in the Verdel area along the river, pulled his fishing boat and riding lawn mower out Wednesday night as a precaution.
“It all depends on a home's elevation as to if it's going to be flooded,” he said. “Is the high water going to be a threat to our property with the higher releases? I don't know.”
Maxwell gets sandbags ready for rising river
NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (AP) — Residents of Maxwell in western Nebraska are filling sandbags as the Platte River continues to rise.
Residents in the village spent Wednesday filling more than 1,000 bags. They're planning for flooding as more water starts flowing down the South Platte River from Colorado, where the snow hasn't started to melt yet.
Maxwell has had flood problems in recent years. Village Chairman Shane Montgomery says they're getting ready, just in case.
Meanwhile, U.S. Highway 30 between North Platte and Maxwell is closed because flood waters are rushing over both lanes of the highway, just east of the airport in North Platte.
The flooding is from recent storms and already high river levels.