Bridge open: Bellevue Public Works Department officials said Thursday that sandbagging efforts successfully shored up parts of Nebraska Highway 370, thus keeping open the Bellevue Bridge across the Missouri River into Iowa. If Wednesday's sandbagging efforts hadn't been successful, the officials said, authorities would have been forced to close the bridge due to floodwaters seeping onto the highway. Also Thursday, public works officials said flooding sightseers were no longer being allowed to stop and make u-turns near the west side of the Bellevue Bridge. The officials said motorists, who were making u-turns at the Haworth Park entrance and tying up traffic, now face signs designating no u-turns and only through-traffic across the bridge into Iowa.
Highway reopens: Westbound Highway 370 from Interstate 29 to the Missouri River reopened Wednesday night, including the westbound lane of the Bellevue Bridge near Haworth Park. The eastbound lane of Iowa 370 remained closed to allow for large sandbags to be dropped along the levee system, the Iowa Department of Transportation said. The sandbagging operation began Wednesday afternoon.
Trail closing: Another portion of the trail along Omaha's Riverfront Drive will close Friday because of a construction project at the Burt-Izard pump station, said Assistant Fire Chief Dan Stolinski. It will be closed for several weeks, he said. The trail will close from the Rick's Cafe Boatyard parking lot to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, said Parks Director Melinda Pearson. The pedestrian bridge remains open.
Office closed: The Council Bluffs Social Security office is closed due to flooding along the Missouri River. The Omaha Social Security office can be reached at 866-716-8299. The Omaha office, 604 N. 109th Court, is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Recipients may go online at www.socialsecurity.gov to change an address or telephone number, set up direct deposit, or apply for benefits.
Train route: Amtrak is temporarily suspending its California Zephyr passenger train service from Emeryville, Calif., and Chicago because of flooding in the Omaha area. The eastbound train scheduled to leave California on Wednesday and the westbound train scheduled to leave Chicago on Thursday were canceled.
Bluffs quiet: “It's a sunny day and very quiet,” Council Bluffs spokesman Don Gross said. “It's a day to play catch-up.” The Missouri River's level at the city reached 35.4 feet about 1 p.m. Wednesday, an increase from 35 feet the previous day. It should stay at that level through Thursday before it begins receding slightly by the weekend, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projections. The federally built levee along the river at Council Bluffs has a height of 41 feet.
Nighthawks volunteer: The Omaha Nighthawks organization will be volunteering Thursday at the Levi Carter Park sandbagging operation. A group will help sandbag from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nighthawks business staff and some interns will volunteer the entire four hours, while coaches will be there about 3 p.m., said Sarah Brumfield, public relations director.
More sandbagging: The City of Bellevue and the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District are requesting volunteers to fill between 7,000 and 8,000 sandbags. Fifty to 60 volunteers are needed from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Thursday to fill sandbags to protect public works infrastructure and some levees. For more information, contact Phil Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce at 402-898-3000.
Road open: The Interstate 29 and Interstate 680 interchange near Loveland, Iowa, is open after sandbags, barrier walls and pumps were installed. The area remains vulnerable to increased water levels, and additional flood protection measures will be taken such as the installation of large drainage pipes.
Road closings: The southbound Interstate 29 interchange ramps at Hamilton Boulevard in Sioux City are closed. Southbound I-29 to Wesley Parkway/U.S. Highway 77 is an alternate ramp. Iowa Highway 175 between Onawa and Decatur, Neb., is closed as sandbagging continues and a concrete barrier rail is installed. The road is closed due to bank erosion near the east abutment of the Decatur bridge.
Damage reports: Individual damage reports still can be called in or submitted online to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. To give a preliminary report on any property damage due to flooding or recent storms, call toll-free at 855-211-2453 or 855-211-2454 or submit reports online at www.nema.ne.gov/newsroom/home-damage-contact.html. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is asking property owners to provide their best estimates of damage. NEMA, along with federal officials and the National Guard, will begin making assessments on Thursday. These assessments do not guarantee that an individual will receive assistance.
Disaster declaration: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting a disaster designation for six Iowa counties along the Missouri River. Branstad's request follows a review of agriculture damages conducted by the Farm Service Agency. If granted, the designation will make disaster programs available to eligible applicants. These programs include low-interest emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments program, created in the 2008 farm bill. Iowans are encouraged to contact their local Farm Service Agency office for further information.
Propane tank safety: The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is urging people to anchor large containers, such as home heating and propane tanks, before floodwaters hit.
Mills County request: Mills County officials are asking residents to inform them of property damage caused by flooding. “We're trying to figure out what exactly the individual damage to personal property has been in our county,” said Sheri Bowen, a county spokeswoman. She said the information would be turned in to the state, which would use it while applying for individual relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Residents who have experienced property damage are asked to call the county's flood hotline at 712-527-4231.
Open for the holiday: Rest areas along I-29 near Onawa will reopen Friday and remain open for the Fourth of July weekend. After the weekend, the northbound rest area will stay open and the southbound rest area will close again. The rest areas have been closed because they are storing emergency supplies and other equipment needed to construct highway flood barrier walls.
Grassley wants a visit: President Barack Obama should visit the flood-covered counties in western Iowa, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Wednesday. Grassley said during his weekly conference call that the president should wait for the water to recede.
Rumor: Nebraska's nuclear power plants store spent fuel rods in open casks. If the Missouri River rises high enough, it will overflow them and carry contaminated water downstream.
Fact: The plants both use outdoor, above-ground entombment, also called dry cask storage, for its oldest fuel. The fuel is entombed in steel canisters that have been welded shut. These canisters are then placed inside concrete bunkers that rely on outside air flowing around the canisters to carry away residual heat. The bunker and canisters are built to withstand flooding. Elevated indoor pools are used for the most recently used fuel rods. At the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, the river would have to rise another 32.18 feet to flow over the top of the pool deck. At the Brownville plant, the river would have to rise approximately 102 feet.
— Emily Nohr, Nancy Gaarder and Andrew J. Nelson, with the World-Herald News Service