A Black Hawk helicopter hovers over Waterloo on Friday. Crews flew oversized sandbags into place near Ashland on Saturday.

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.

Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

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