Residents of three Sarpy County lake communities along the Platte River were allowed back into their homes Friday, a week after evacuating.
People with houses or cabins at Betty, Chris and Hanson’s Lakes lined up Friday morning outside the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office. Because of the hazards still present in the neighborhoods, the Sheriff’s Office is requiring homeowners or renters to fill out paperwork proving that they live in the area before residents are allowed limited access to their homes.
People were evacuated from the Hanson’s Lakes area about 2:30 a.m. March 15. Waters rose so high that one couple said their neighbor saw a pontoon boat on someone’s roof.
“We have two docks, and one of them is a floating dock,” said Sharon Sysel, who lives on Hanson Lake 2. “That’s gone. It’s in the lake. We don’t know where it is.”
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The Sysels were fortunate. Their house is high on a hill and has no basement. While a neighbor has water just a few inches shy of overflowing their basement, the Sysels’ house is dry.
Julie Thiele thinks her cabin on Hanson Lake 3 may be a loss. Drone footage from a neighbor showed water up to her roof.
“We’ve had three floods since we’ve been there, and it has never come past our fire pit,” she said. “We and all the neighbors put everything 4 feet up, and we laughed as we did it. We thought, ‘There’s no way.’
“It wasn’t high enough.”
Even Friday, Thiele said, a drone showed her water was 2 or 3 feet high in her cabin. “I’m not even sure if I can get into it,” she said.
Fortunately, the cabin is not her main home — she lives in Papillion.
A few members of her family plan to start work Saturday by punching holes in the drywall to air out the walls. Then they will start stripping out the cabin and seeing what’s left to save.
Chart: Where Nebraska floods did damage
The chart below shows each Nebraska county that has reported damage to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. In all, early estimates have the number at nearly $650 million in damages. Hover over bubbles to see damage amounts. Data updated at 6:30 p.m. March 21.
“Everyone is just going to pass around their helpers and we’re going to get it done,” she said.
At one point, Sarpy County Sheriff Jeff Davis said, about 25 propane tanks were floating in the area. Davis said he was told that it could take six to eight weeks before people could return to their homes, but receding waters and a massive cleanup effort cut that time down to just a week.
The private recreation areas at Olivo Lake and Schmid Park are open to property owners, Sarpy County officials said Friday. Vencil’s Island, Linoma Beach, Thomas Riverside Acres, Sands Trailer Court and Riha Lakes remain inaccessible, officials said.