LINCOLN — As the scope of damage continues to emerge from the floodwaters, Nebraska emergency officials told state lawmakers Thursday that they are shifting their focus from urgent response to long-term recovery.
“A lot of work is left to be done,” said Bryan Tuma, assistant director of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.
Tuma said Gov. Pete Ricketts met with officials Thursday morning to talk about next steps. They discussed strategies for putting resources to work in the least amount of time and getting infrastructure rebuilt in the most efficient manner.
One resource used for the immediate response has been the governor’s emergency fund. Major Gen. Daryl Bohac, Nebraska’s adjutant general, said efforts so far have used $1.69 million of the fund, which had $3.9 million in it before last week’s flooding.
As of Thursday morning, Tuma said, housing and roads remain the most critical areas of concern. Seven Red Cross shelters remain open, with a dwindling population at each.
But Bohac said many people have left the shelters to stay with family and friends, not to return home. The Red Cross and state officials are starting to look at longer-term housing options for people.
Tuma reported that 383 miles of state highways were closed and 22 state highway bridges were damaged. Assessment of county roads and bridges remains to be completed because officials have not been able to get access to them.
In the meantime, Bohac urged Nebraskans to continue calling the state’s emergency operations center with information, questions and requests for help.
“If we don’t know about it, we can’t do anything about it,” he said.
He said citizens can call 402-817-1551 to reach the center, which continues to operate 24 hours a day with representatives from a number of different agencies available. More recently, he said, the center has added behavioral health resources.
Bohac also urged people to have patience with the pace of recovery and to be kind to others. Fixing or replacing roads and bridges, in particular, will take time.
Over the next several days and weeks, Tuma said, multi-agency resource centers will be set up so that people eligible for individual assistance from the federal government can get help. Some of the centers may pop up for a few days in one town, then again in another location.
Bohac said he expects Federal Emergency Management Agency workers will be going door to door in affected areas to assess the damage. That effort could begin next week.
Forty-four different nonprofit groups from across the nation are heading to Nebraska to help with recovery, and a number of local groups also are helping, Tuma said. They are offering to do everything from distributing food to mucking out basements.
Several private businesses also have offered donations and services through the Nebraska Preparedness Partnership.