Matter-of-factly and with precision, as they had the previous 48 days, public officials directing Omaha's flood fight met Monday morning to coordinate the day's battle plan.
Behind them, walls were papered with maps and a poster-size organizational chart.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have left a legacy that survives today as Omaha battles historic flooding of the Missouri River: Those responding to emergencies now follow a tightly coordinated but flexible script to lessen mix-ups in the midst of disaster, to get needed materials to the field with minimal delay and to better ensure that a community isn't digging itself into the red as it digs out of trouble.
More than 15 officials, from a National Guard lieutenant to an Omaha fiscal specialist, attended Monday's meeting. The group also meets each afternoon to prepare for the next day's fight.
Dan Stolinski, an Omaha assistant fire chief, said the meetings get all the decision makers in one room.
"When you have to address something, there is someone in the room who can have the answer for you, or (who can) get someone to do it," he said.
Shane Hunter, the Omaha Fire Department's battalion chief who led this meeting, said the coordination has been critical to supporting workers in the field.
"The city has stayed dry for one reason and one reason only: The people who are out there working — with boots on feet, gloves on hands ... that are getting muddy and dirty in horrible conditions — with insects, heat exhaustion — they're doing that work, they're keeping the city dry," Hunter said.
The coordination at these meetings is no small matter, because issues of authority and liability play a role in getting things done. Additionally, reams of paperwork will be necessary if the city is to receive every nickel it is entitled to under Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines.
So far, the City of Omaha has spent about $4 million.
On Monday, Marty Grate of the Omaha Public Works Department told the group that the city last week completed the emergency installation of pumps and now has shifted into monitoring the city's hastily reworked drainage system.
The pumps are needed because the river is so high — six feet over flood stage — that the city's drainage system isn't functioning properly. A total of 79 pumps have been installed, he said.
Combined, they have the capacity to pump more than one billion gallons into the Missouri River.
Also at Monday's meeting, Lt. Eddie Martens of the Nebraska National Guard told Grate that the Guard is willing for its troops who are patrolling the levees to also activate the pumps. But with a caveat.
"If something goes wrong if we push the button, that's all we did, was push the button," Martens said.
Grate concurred and said the city would provide guidance on the level of pooling that would justify activating the pumps. The city has 13 miles of levees being monitored by the National Guard.
Melinda Pearson, whose parks department is coordinating the sandbagging sites, said the city will relocate its sandbagging site from north Omaha to downtown. The change is needed, Pearson has said, because plenty of bags have been staged in northeast Omaha, so it's time to stockpile additional ones nearer downtown.
Despite the weekend's heat, volunteers filled 7,100 sandbags, she said.
Since sandbagging began, 185,300 bags have been put in use and 151,000 remain on standby, she said.
After the meeting, Hunter said 15 injuries, mostly strains during sandbagging, have been reported. As of Monday morning there had been only one report of heat exhaustion.
"When you think of the literally hundreds of employees, private workers, volunteers and contractors with the city, 15 is a remarkable number," he said.
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