Residents removing mud- and water-soaked debris from houses and businesses are running into the next flood-related challenges: long lines at local landfills and a high demand for dumpsters.
Residents of Douglas and Sarpy Counties already have hauled more than 800 tons of flood-damaged debris to their landfills since floodwaters hit Nebraska and Iowa earlier this month. Since March 20, more than 1,000 vehicles have passed through Fremont’s Waste Transfer Station, and up until Saturday, Fremont extended weekend hours and waived tipping fees to accommodate the crowds.
“Yes, the lines have been long, but we’ve done everything possible to try and alleviate some of that,” said Lottie Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the City of Fremont.
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Cass County is considering whether it needs to set up its own county dump site. Most garbage trucks there drop off loads at Sarpy County or Lincoln landfills.
“There is an issue with getting the dumpsters,” said Cass County emergency management director Sandy Weyers. “There’s not enough to go around. Once they drop them, they’re full within minutes.”
It’s not just a logistical concern, either: While residents may be anxious to get ruined appliances out of their house, there are still environmental standards and rules surrounding storm disposal, including the burying of dead livestock.
Appliances like refrigerators, washers, dryers and water heaters are banned from Nebraska landfills and towns may be leery about allowing sewage-soaked trash to linger curbside. Many landfills don’t allow for the disposal of paint or other hazardous chemicals, and there are special procedures for disposing of materials that contain asbestos, like insulation. (More info on flood cleanup can be found at the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality website.)
Under the Sink, an Omaha household hazardous waste facility open to Douglas and Sarpy County residents, has extended its Tuesday and Saturdays hours throughout April.
“If we don’t do something and can’t get dumpsters, we’re going to start finding this stuff on county roads,” Weyers said. “Unfortunately, a lot of this stuff is coming out of basements backed up with sewer and you don’t want that stuff sitting on your curb for kids to jump on, play in, whatever. We’re giving people gloves and shovels ... so they’re protected.”
Valley was allowing residents to dump flood trash in the parking lot at the city park, but that stopped last Wednesday.
“It looks like the Douglas County landfill,” said Valley Mayor Carroll Smith. “We’re going to leave some dumpsters on the streets but we’ve got to get that park cleaned up. Summer’s coming, the kids want to get out there.”
Aid organizations said they’re trying to figure out how to get disposal costs covered for homeowners who are mentally and financially stressed.
Depending on the size and the company, a weeklong dumpster rental can cost upward of $150. If people choose to drop off garbage themselves, they’ll likely have to pay per vehicle or per ton, depending on how much they’re hauling.
Sarpy County has been coordinating with sanitary improvement districts to place dumpsters in hard-hit areas like Hanson’s Lakes, Hawaiian Village and Linoma Beach. At some point, they’ll have to figure out payment reimbursement for those, whether it comes from flood relief funds or the SIDs themselves.
In Valley, a Crossfit group donated funds for 20 dumpsters, but that money was scheduled to run out last Friday, leaving local volunteers scrambling to raise more. One man has volunteered to haul and scrap flood-damaged appliances, donating the money back to Valley flood relief efforts.
“A lot of people here live paycheck to paycheck,” said Valley volunteer Haley Cortez. “We’re just trying to help ease that burden.”
Dave Holling, the manager of U Fill It, a Valley waste removal company, said it takes time for drivers to pick containers up, dump them at the Pheasant Point landfill in Bennington and drop them back off. Some of the local roads are in bad shape, too.
“We’re hauling them just as quick as we can,” Holling said. “It’s pretty overwhelming. It’s a mess.”
Sue Maier’s phones have been ringing off the hook the past few weeks. Maier and her husband, Peter, own Bin There, Dump That, an Omaha-based dumpster-rental business. They have customers filling up supersized dumpsters within hours with soggy carpets, furniture and drywall.
“We have a lot of people affected in those areas right by the rivers, Papillion and Bellevue and Waterloo in particular,” she said. “I had to start a wait-list because the demand was so high.”
They started the franchise business seven months ago with one truck and 24 dumpsters. Now they have two trucks and 48 dumpsters.
“We’ve had our team working pretty much seven days a week and we’re going to continue to do so for many weeks to come,” Maier said. “When I’m on the phone with people, I try to tell them we’re very sorry for what you’re going through. We’re trying to ease the process and whatever we can do to ease the discomfort.”
World-Herald staff writer Bob Glissmann contributed to this report.
Floods devastate Nebraska, Iowa in March 2019
A list of ways to help in the aftermath of the widespread flooding in Nebraska and Iowa.
By itself, the 'bombogenesis' would not have dealt Nebraska such a crippling blow. Our harsh winter set the stage. When the two combined, they produced Nebraska’s worst flooding in 50 years and worst blizzard in nearly as many years.
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The refuge will remain closed until engineers are able to assess the damage. "We have not had to evacuate the visitor center or our headquarters building. The only significant damage has been to our roads," says Tom Cox, director of the refuge.
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Just over 8,500 Nebraskans, and a similar number of Iowans, have flood insurance policies. That’s a fraction of the people whose property the flooding has struck. And more could be damaged still as the flood threat lingers.
Conditions continue to indicate Nebraska has not seen the last of flooding, starting with forecasts for this weekend calling for up to an inch of rain Friday into Saturday across portions of Nebraska.
The fridge was packed full of Bud Light and Busch Light, and even the ice maker was still full.
It’s not that the Omaha area didn’t see its share of the record-setting floodwater that turned neighboring towns to islands and caused, so far, hundreds of millions in damage. It's that Omaha was able to withstand it.
In the before-and-after visuals below, using imagery from the EU's Sentinel-2 satellite, you can see whole Nebraska towns fall victim to the floods.
Beer giant Anheuser-Busch is sending more than 100,000 cans of emergency drinking water to Nebraska communities affected by the historic flooding.
Larry the Cable Guy is helping out those affected by the recent floods. All of his proceeds from his concert Wednesday at Pinnacle Bank Arena will be donated to the Red Cross for disaster relief in Nebraska, he said on Twitter.
From the banks of the Platte River, the Otoe Indians gave the wide, meandering waterway a name: Nebrathka. Roughly translated: flat water.
People who populate the towns and small lake communities along the Platte River west and south of Omaha were taking stock of their homes and futures this week. Some of the properties are second homes or summer getaways, but just as many are full-time residences, from small mobile homes to comfortable villas.
“I think farmers are putting their best foot forward even though damage is probably worse than they’re saying,” one industry source said.
The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency has posted estimates of monetary damages from flooding and recent storms across the state.
Steve Nelson, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, estimated that there will be $400 million to $500 million in livestock losses and about $400 million in crop losses because spring planting will be delayed or canceled.
Levees along some 210 miles of the Missouri River from Bellevue, Nebraska, to Leavenworth, Kansas, have failed or are at risk of failing, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
“People leave their dogs in my care and I give them my word that these dogs are going to be safe,” said the owner of a pet motel.
On Thursday, two boats had capsized in the high winds and raging waters east of Fremont during an attempted rescue of a family that had called for help.
After drenching rains Tuesday and heavy snow on Wednesday, Gibbon’s low spots became apparent, first as water filled streets to the curb, and later on Thursday and Friday as the water spilled into lawns and driveways before lapping at foundations. “I’ve never seen so much water, or the force and damage it can do in a short time,” firefighter Jamey Rome said.
As floodwaters in some areas began to level out or slowly recede, the reality set in that cleanup and reconstruction efforts would stretch months — or longer.
Thirty buildings, including the 55th Wing headquarters and the two major aircraft maintenance facilities, had been flooded with up to 8 feet of water, and 30 more structures damaged. About 3,000 feet of the base’s 11,700-foot runway was submerged. No one, though, had been injured.
In areas like Boyd County and Glenwood, water shortages and boil-water orders could last for weeks as critical water and sewer infrastructure is repaired.
Rescuers were unable to get to Betty Hamernik because of the fast current, high waves and wind gusts of 60 mph, according to the Platte County Sheriff’s Office.
The devastation in this recreation-based community of 370 was a testament to the pummeling power of Mother Nature when huge chunks of winter ice are propelled by an estimated 11-foot wall of water. In that way, it was a different scene than many others across flood-ravaged Nebraska.
Work to improve the levee system has been in the planning or construction stages almost from the time the Missouri River dropped below flood stage in the fall of 2011.
When Lisa Lemus was about to close the door to her house in the Paradise Lakes neighborhood, the “backyard of Offutt Air Force Base,” she knew that everything she was leaving behind would be destroyed.
A pickup driver drove around a barricade at Skyline Drive and West Dodge Road about 10:45 p.m. into high floodwaters and stalled, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said.
When the Elkhorn River marooned the city on one side and the Platte cut off access, the people of Fremont were all in the same position of being stuck. And they were of a united spirit in wanting to do something about that.
Both Ricketts and U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, whose own Fremont-area home was taking in water, said they had been in contact with President Donald Trump in the past 24 hours. Sasse said he had also spoken to Vice President Mike Pence.
On Saturday, high-rail vehicles provided by Union Pacific Railroad, which traveled along U.P. tracks, transported evacuees to a shelter at Elkhorn Middle School.
Gov. Pete Ricketts toured the Platte and Loup Rivers by helicopter with the Nebraska National Guard and after a short stop in Norfolk, planned to survey the Elkhorn River.
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Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Speaker Jim Scheer, while surveying storm damage in the state, stopped at the Norfolk airport Friday …
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Flooding is causing extensive damage across Nebraska and Iowa on Thursday.
Nebraskans are nervously scanning the skies and checking their basements for water creeping in as forecasters and home contractors warn of flooding that could do some damage.
Hay is going out to help farmers and ranchers as quickly as people donate it.
An official with the state office of the Farm Services Agency said Monday that because of earlier livestock losses from below-zero temperatures and wet animals, the agency has asked the federal government to add another 30 days to the period in which livestock deaths can be covered by federal aid.
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In the 47 years that Mike Kaminski’s dad, Darrell, has lived on the family’s farm along the west side of the Middle Loup River south of Loup City, an area of sandy hills 6 to 8 feet high along the river never had flooded. Not when heavy, wet snow melted. Not when 5 to 6 inches of rain fell. Not until this month.
The two, ages 27 and 59, were found dragging 40-foot roofing trusses from a wooded area near 252nd and State Streets.
The Salvation Army, American Red Cross, United Way and more all have ways in which you can help those affected by the flooding.
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The State of Nebraska released some numbers Sunday to help quantify the recent flooding and blizzard in the state.
“They come in overwhelmed by what they have lost at home, and some of them begin to cry,” said volunteer Sabrina Ayala. “Then they see all the volunteers and the support. They are amazed. I’ve heard ‘Thank you’ so many times this week.”
Michelle Oertwich says she picked the right guy after her then-fiancé moved quickly to arrange for a second wedding date.
The bones appear to have been in the water for an extended period of time, officials said.
Brenda Bolkema wondered if she'd be able to see her mother before she died. Then a pilot volunteered to fly her into the flooded town.
More than 800 tons as of Wednesday, if you're keeping tabs.
It's one of the largest campaigns ever for the organization, a spokesman said.
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Scott E. Goodman, 30, was swept away by floodwaters near Norfolk on March 14. His body has not been recovered.