MISSOURI VALLEY, Iowa — With roads and bridges closing up and down the Missouri River, the 2011 floods have thrown a wrench into the lives of those who cross the river to get to work.
One place where the closings are felt profoundly is this bedroom community near the interchange of U.S. Highway 30 and Interstate 29, both with nearby stretches closed this week.
More than half of the workers who live in this Harrison County town are employed in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area as opposed to in Harrison County, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
Commuting times have increased, often at a cost of time with family, and a hit to family budgets for the extra fuel needed. For those who can no longer use I-29 to Omaha, commuting times have close to doubled.
The drive for Lt. Darci Tierney of the Omaha Police Department used to take about 30 minutes on I-29. Her trek on the Old Lincoln Highway takes about 50 minutes.
Admittedly the drive through the Loess Hills is beautiful, but she'd rather spend more time with her children.
“It's just a little bit more hectic getting kids where they need to go, ball practice or swim team …,” she said.
And like many commuters interrupted by closings, the grocery shopping has to get done on the way home from work.
“You really think twice before coming to Omaha for shopping. … Any other time you might just get in the car and go to Target or Menards or something.”
Interstate 29 from about the Harrison-Pottawattamie County line to Council Bluffs has been closed for weeks, while U.S. 30 between Missouri Valley and Blair, Neb., was shut down Wednesday morning so flood barriers could be installed.
Iowa officials predict that closure will last at least two days.
In some cases, the latest closing has prevented people from reaching work at all.
When Tami Cates of Missouri Valley couldn't make it in, she called and her boss signed off. Cates has already evacuated her home and is staying with family.
Cates does data entry in Blair, usually a 14-mile drive. She can't justify the expense of driving 55 miles — down to Omaha and back up.
“If they paid me more, I would have. They don't pay me enough,” she said, laughing. “Just being honest.”
Another person inconvenienced by the road closures is Sara Luebbert, 48, of West Point, Neb., who frequently crosses the river because she supervises several Casey's General Stores in Iowa, including the one in Missouri Valley.
She managed to slip across the river at Blair right before U.S. 30 closed Wednesday morning, but planned to go through Omaha to get home. Her only other choice: driving to Sioux City and crossing there.
“You have to do what you have to do,” she said. “The river is king.”
But commuters here know it could be worse.
Tierney and her family live on high ground and are at no risk of having to leave their home. Some of her friends aren't so lucky.
“To me, the commute is an inconvenience — but certainly nothing I can complain about.”
World-Herald staff writer Paul Goodsell contributed to this report.
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