In a situation where normal sandbags just wouldn’t cut it, two Nebraska National Guard Black Hawk helicopters and their crews spent Saturday flying into place oversized, 1,500-pound sandbags to fortify an island on the Platte River near Ashland where three City of Lincoln wells are situated.
The wells supply some of Lincoln’s water.
The crews had flown 56 of the bags into place by noon Saturday, according to Mike Wight, a public information officer with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.
Donna Garden, assistant director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities, a city agency, said in a press conference Saturday afternoon that the crews had begun work at 7 a.m. and were still working.
The Platte rose overnight Friday, reaching 24 feet by Saturday. “We’ve never seen, that we know of, it reaching that high,” Garden said. However, the river was reaching a crest by Saturday afternoon, with gauges down at North Bend and Leshara.
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The island is home to three of the 44 wells that supply Lincoln’s water. All three were without power Saturday afternoon, Garden said, but power was expected to be restored soon to two of them. Another well on the bank of the river also had lost power and was expected to be restored soon. The oversized sandbags, which crews were filling near the well field, measure 4 feet square.
Meantime, Lincoln officials have been assuring residents that their water is safe.
Garden said 40 vertical wells still are operating and reservoirs are full.
The city’s water is pumped out of the ground, and not from the river itself, and is not at risk of contamination from floodwaters, the city said. Treatment plants are secure and working as designed and the system is monitored constantly.
“Lincoln is fortunate at this time to have safe drinking water,” she said.
In the Omaha area, the Metropolitan Utilities District, which provides water to much of the metropolitan area, said it was monitoring conditions on the Missouri and Platte Rivers as floodwaters rise and spark some concerns about contaminants.
As of Saturday, the utility said drinking water is safe. It still meets or exceeds all state and federal standards based on more than 1,000 tests a day, the utility said.
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The Elkhorn River at the Maple Street bridge is shown under water Monday March 18, 2019.
Floodwaters from the Elkhorn River have gone down and now expose a heavily damaged West Dodge Road.
Floodwaters from the Elkhorn River have started to recede, exposing a heavily damaged West Dodge Road.
The eastbound lanes of West Dodge Road just west of 228th Street show the damage done after floodwaters went down Monday.
A cow makes its way through floodwaters near Columbus, Nebraska, on Friday.
A shell of the Spencer dam is left on the Niobrara River.
Floodwaters engulf a farm near Missouri Valley on Friday.
Floodwaters flow over a railroad bridge near Arlington, Nebraska, on Friday.
Floodwaters make their way into North Bend, Nebraska, on Friday.
The Elkhorn River encroaches on Waterloo on Sunday.
A portion of Highway 92 has been destroyed by floodwaters in western Douglas County.
The Elkhorn River has covered several parts of western Douglas County.
A levee breach is shown on the Platte River near Ashland on Sunday.
Valley is shown inundated by floodwaters on Sunday.
An aerial view of Missouri Valley near the Interstate 29 exit on March 15.
An aerial view of Missouri Valley as floodwaters continue to impact the area on Friday.
A house is surrounded by floodwaters near Waterloo, Nebraska, on Friday.
Floodwaters envelop King Lake, Nebraska, on Friday.
Floodwaters swallow the town of Rogers, Nebraska, on Friday.
Water recedes in the town of Niobrara NE., on Friday March 15, 2019. The highway showing is Hwy 12 and Hwy 14 Junction.
The Morman bridge on Highway 12 between Niobrara and Niobrara State Park was wiped out by a flood.
A train is stopped on flooded tracks next to the Platte River near Cedar Creek, Nebraska, on Friday.
Interstate 29 surrounded by water near exit 56 in Council Bluffs, which is part of a section that is closed due to flooding on Friday.
Highway 75's northbound lane is closed because of flooding near Merritt's Beach RV Park on Friday.
A Nebraska National Guard helicopter flies over areas flooded by the Platte River near Columbus, Nebraska, on Friday.
Highway 81 covered in floodwaters south of Columbus, Nebraska, on Friday.
A Nebraska National Guard helicopter flies over flooded Waterloo on Friday.
Cars drive drive across a flooded Platte River on Highway 50 just north of Louisville on Friday, March 15, 2019. CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD
Water covers a road near Valley, Nebraska on Friday, March 15, 2019. CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD
A westward, aerial view of a flooded Tom Hanafan River's Edge Park on Friday.
An aerial view of Missouri Valley, Iowa, as floodwaters continue to impact the area on Friday.
The National Weather Service in Valley, Nebraska was evacuated due to flooding on Friday, March 15, 2019. CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD
A truck drives through a flooded road near the Platte River on Friday.