It might be called disas-tourism, that irresistible curiosity to witness firsthand the devastating power of nature.
Tourism is an overstatement, but there certainly have been lots of lookie-loos heading to the banks of the swollen Missouri River to take in the spectacle.
They flock to Omaha's riverfront, causing minor traffic jams, staring in awe at all the water, while serious city workmen tend pumps like the storied Dutch boy with his finger in the dike.
To get a bird's-eye view, Bryan Weaver, 21, and buddies Alex Clark, 18, and Rachel Miller, 20, of Council Bluffs drove to the Lewis and Clark Monument on an Iowa bluff 275 feet above the river channel.
“A lot of people have been talking about it, and I wanted to see it for myself,” Weaver said. “It's insane.”
From this wooded point, where turkey vultures patrol the treetops, the scope of the flood is clear. Freed from its rip-rap shackles, the Mighty Mo runs where it pleases, stalking Omaha's Eppley Airfield, blocking Interstate 29 and turning distant farm fields into shimmering wetlands.
One wonders if a wild scene like this met the eyes of 19th century explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, whose confab with local Indians is depicted in relief in the monument's concrete panels.
“It's a historic flood,” said Ann Cottone, 34, wearing a Grateful Dead T-shirt as she visited the monument with her daughter, Rachel, 15.
“We'll probably not see it ever again in my lifetime,” she said, adding “Let's hope not.”
From up here, the passenger jets lifting off from runways at Eppley Airfield look like toys. Down at Omaha's riverfront, meanwhile, you can smell the water and watch it rush by — but police say stay out.
The river and any connecting waters are closed to the public, said Omaha Police Lt. Darci Tierney.
“There have been times when people have walked beyond the barricades and gotten a little closer than they should have, but they are risking arrest by doing that,” Tierney said.
There's a lot of information online, including aerial photos, making it a good, safe way to see the flood, she said.
Crowds at Omaha's riverfront have caused traffic problems, particularly a parking crunch close to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, Tierney said.
“If you park at Rick's Boatyard in order to get over to the pedestrian bridge, you can't because Riverfront Drive is closed,” Tierney said. “So traffic has been an issue around there.”
Riverfront Drive is closed about halfway between Dodge Street and Abbott Drive because of a pumping operation. On Friday, the trail along Riverfront Drive at that spot closed for a couple of weeks, too.
Gawkers are instead driving in from the north and making use of the Gallup parking lot north of the bridge.
Devon Monson of Bellevue legged out onto the suspension bridge in time to witness a 40-foot cottonwood, roots and all, sail down and slam into a support pier on the Iowa side.
The tree gave off a crunching sound, she said, slid around and headed for Kansas City.
Monson said she was there to witness the unusual.
“It doesn't happen every day, and it's free entertainment,” she said.
She said people are drawn to see the flood for the same reason they hit the brake and rubber-neck at car accidents.
Bellevue experienced a deluge of flood-watchers at Haworth Park until the water rose so high that it threatened to close the access road to the Bellevue Bridge.
Bellevue Police Chief John Stacey said the oglers initially concerned his officers.
“I said, ‘That's OK. I'm mean, this is history, let them see it. I want to see it.'”
But the department's priority changed when the river threatened to close the narrow approach road to the two-lane bridge. The city erected “No Parking” signs to keep people from stopping their cars near the bridge to Iowa.
Locals determined to see the flood can drive by the Offutt Base Lake or Harlan Lewis Road, he said.
Omaha.com video: On the riverfront:
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