UNK Student Union - inside

Chris Blocher, University of Nebraska at Kearney lead custodian, cleans up floodwaters near the entryway of the Nebraskan Student Union. About 2 inches of water covered a large portion of the building’s first floor, including the food court area and office spaces.

Rainstorms that dump more than 6 inches of rain at a time, such as the one that hit central Nebraska on Monday night into Tuesday, don’t occur very often.

“You are looking at least a 1-in-500-year event,” said climatologist Al Dutcher of the Nebraska State Climate Office. “It’s even more significant because there were several locations that had 6 to 8 inches of rain,” noting the reports of 6.5 inches in Cozad, 7.66 at Riverdale-Kearney, 6.68 at Bertrand and 8.33 in Hildreth.

The town of Loomis, about 38 miles southwest of Kearney in Phelps County, reported 8.88 inches of rain over 24 hours, the National Weather Service said.

The rain that fell in south-central Nebraska is even more significant, Dutcher said, because it accumulated over a four- to five-hour period.

Meteorological models didn’t foresee the large amounts of precipitation, Dutcher said. A system of thunderstorms simply stalled over the area.

The greatest 24-hour precipitation event in state history occurred in York, with 13.15 inches on July 7 to 8, 1950, Dutcher said.

In Omaha, the record for rainfall for a 24-hour period is 6.41 inches, said Van DeWald, a meteorologist with the weather service in Valley. That occurred on Aug. 7, 1999.

“It’s pretty rare to get that much rain,” DeWald said. “In 120 years of record-keeping, that is the largest amount we’ve seen here in Omaha.”

Omaha’s second-place 24-hour rainfall was recorded last year, when 6.17 inches was recorded on Aug. 20.

Monday night’s big rain may have fallen in the central part of the state, but its effects will be felt into southeast Nebraska. The Platte River near Omaha is forecast to rise 2 to 3 feet by this weekend, DeWald said.

“That shouldn’t be enough to bring the Platte out of its banks,” DeWald said. “There should be quite a bit of debris in the river, though, and we’re advising people to be safe and stay away from the river.”

The contiguous U.S. recorded the wettest 12-month period on record from July 2018 to June 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday. Average precipitation across the Lower 48 was 37.86 inches, 7.90 inches above average, the NOAA said.

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