Despite the winter's extreme cold, there's reason to be hopeful that eastern Nebraska could dodge flooding from ice jams on the Elkhorn and Platte Rivers.
The ice on both rivers hasn't reached the level that typically sounds alarms, said Rich Tesar, a longtime member of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District.
On the other hand, there's still enough time for problems to occur, he said.
Tesar said the ice appears to be thinning on the Platte and stabilizing on the Elkhorn.
“I am a little concerned about the Elkhorn,” he said. “Normally we start seeing open pockets of water (by now). It's a sheet of snow and ice.”
Ice on the Platte River is averaging about 11 to 13 inches thick since Jan. 7, based on drilling by the Papio NRD, Tesar said.
Platte River sampling by the U.S. Geological Survey found a 4-inch decrease in thickness at the Highway 64 bridge this week over last. Tesar said Thursday's sample was 8 inches thick, down from 12 inches the week before.
Ice thickness on the Elkhorn River at Waterloo has been a fairly steady 12 inches this winter, based on sampling there, Tesar said.
“I am relatively optimistic we will not see any major flooding this spring based off of current conditions on the Platte,” Tesar said. “The Elkhorn does worry me some, but we will just have to wait and see how things develop.”
In western Nebraska, ice jams have flooded low-lying areas along the North Platte River near North Platte, according to the National Weather Service.
Areas at risk of flooding have been those that typically flood.