For latest updates on flooding click here:
* * *
Widespread flooding across eastern Nebraska and western Iowa has closed many roads and led to evacuations in some communities. Sandbagging and pumping operations are underway, too, and in at least one community, the sewage system is in jeopardy.
Emergency officials have implored people not to travel in areas that are experiencing flooding. Stranded vehicles are diverting emergency workers away from their efforts to protect communities from flooding.
Update: 8:30 p.m.
Water has overtopped a levee near Capehart Road in southwestern Sarpy County, according to Sheriff Jeff Davis. Deputies are going door-to-door asking residents of Beacon View, Linoma Beach and Riverside to leave immediately, Davis said. The levee hasn't broken, he said. But that remains a fear, now that water has overtopped it.
"We're always worried about that," he said. "The question is, 'Will it hold or not?'"
The Osmond levee has broken, placing the downstream community of Pierce, Nebraska, more directly in flooding's path.
The entire town of Missouri Valley, Iowa, was being evacuated late Wednesday as water rushed in from multiple breaks in surrounding levees.
Firefighters and police advised residents to evacuate, and several trailers loaded with family belongings were spotted heading west from Missouri Valley.
Fire Chief Caleb Wohlers said the evacuation became mandatory about 7 p.m. Wednesday and that power would be shut off to houses. About 2,600 people call Missouri Valley home.
“We have multiple breaches at the dikes in all areas of town,” he said. “We can’t force people out of their homes, but I’m very pleased with the amount of people who have started to move their stuff.”
Wohlers said there isn’t much his crews can do about the flooding, since it would be difficult for trucks to enter those areas to build temporary dams.
Two blocks from the creek, longtime residents Dave and Georgia Johnson loaded clothes and a few supplies in the back of their pickup truck around 6:30 p.m. but said they planned to stay and ride out the flood.
“We really have nowhere to go except for friends,” Georgia Johnson said. “I don’t want to leave.”
As of 7 p.m., waters were creeping up their driveway but hadn’t flooded any part of their 35-year home.
The Johnsons evacuated during the 2011 summer flood and stayed with family for three months.
Residents of Cedar Rapids and Belgrade, along the Cedar River in north central Nebraska, were evacuated Wednesday, according to state officials.
Additional people were evacuated from low-lying areas of Randolph, Pierce, Burwell and Verdigre, while several towns were distributing sandbags in anticipation of flooding.
Nebraska State Patrol Superintendent John Bolduc said two people had to be rescued from the roof of a vehicle that got caught in floodwaters near Pierce. He said Game and Parks Department employees used a small boat to reach the pair.
Ice jams near Columbus and along the Platte River continue to be a concern, according to Bryan Tuma, assistant director of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.
He said the Nebraska National Guard has a helicopter on standby to dust the jams with coal ash. The dusting would be done on Friday, weather permitting. He said the operation needs sunlight to heat up the ash, thus helping melt the ice.
Tuma said some local officials also are looking at the possibility of blasting the ice jams. But he said that would require careful planning and the right conditions, so that the remants of the ice jam do not create further problems downstream.
Neither type of action would be necessary if the ice jams break up on their own. Tuma said there are signs that the 8-mile-long jam along the Loup River, near its confluence with the Platte, is beginning to move. The Platte also appears to have channels opening up so that floodwaters can flow.
Sarpy County has issued an emergency declaration and has asked residents in low-lying areas or along lakes to prepare to evacuate. People are being advised to have a packed bag with clothing, medicine and emergency supplies and to elevate possessions and move equipment and livestock, if possible, to higher ground. County roads are becoming treacherous to travel, officials said. The frost is melting and the water-logged roads are becoming impassable. Crews are adding gravel, but that may not be enough, the county warns. Use hard-surfaced roads whenever possible.
The Nebraska Humane Society has offered to keep pets for those who are evacuating their homes. If you have concerns about large animals or livestock, you can call the Humane Society at 402-444-7800.
Add the community of Nickerson, Nebraska, to those experiencing flooding. Water from the nearby Maple Creek has entered town.
Cleaning out sewer inlets has been an important part of reducing street flooding. Omaha city workers have been tackling clogged and choked inlets for several days.
On Wednesday, a city worker cut his wrist while trying to clear a blocked inlet.
The employee, who works with the sewer maintenance division, was taken to a hospital, where he received stitches. The injury is not life threatening. and he is in stable condition, said Jim Theiler, City of Omaha Public Works assistant director.
Pottawattamie County Emergency Manager Doug Reed was among those asking that people not drive into floodwaters. Vehicles have gotten stranded and that has prevented emergency workers from focusing on the flood fight.
Additionally, the best way for Pottawattamie County residents to get the latest information on flooding in the county is by signing up for emergency alerts on the county website.
- By Erin Duffy World-Herald staff writer
Residents of some low-lying communities are refusing to leave, even as flooding covers the roads that lead to safety. In the Cass County, Nebraska, community of Horseshoe Lake, an unknown number of residents have decided to stay put, said Cass County Emergency Manager Sandy Weyers. The one road leading out of the community has water on it, with more rain on the way.
Weyers said she's told those residents that they can't expect immediate assistance should they need help getting out.
"I would just as soon see people get out while they can rather than have us go back and have to rescue them," she said. "It takes time to assemble the vehicles that can get across that kind of water."
Nebraska doesn't have a law that allows authorities to do mandatory evacuations, she said.
Several other nearby communities have made plans to evacuate and will leave before the roads are covered, she said.
Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates
Receive a summary of the day’s popular and trending stories from Omaha.com.
Among the roads that have been closed in the Omaha metro area is 72nd Street from Ames Avenue to Crown Point Avenue.
In addition to the flood-related closures on the eastern side of the state, a blizzard has closed large sections of western Nebraska to travel. Interstate 80 is closed from North Platte westward.
Emergency officials have warned that people should prepare for additional closures in eastern Nebraska and Iowa due to the forecast for more rain overnight into Thursday. People living in low-lying areas should realize that their ability to travel may become compromised.
Additionally, high winds on Thursday could lead to scattered power outages.
The Iowa community of Underwood is no longer able to fully process sewage after shutting down the main sewer lift station. Residents have been asked to refrain from flushing the toilet or sending water down the drain. City workers and others are working to securing the lift station from encroaching floodwaters, said Reed, the emergency manager for Pottawattamie County.
The American Red Cross has opened a shelter in Avoca, Iowa, to help residents who may have been displaced from their homes because of rising floodwaters.
The shelter is at the Green Hills Area Education Agency at 919 N. Chestnut St.
However, Clint Fichter, city manager of Avoca, said that as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, there were no evacuations and minimal flooding.
“It looks like a normal day, other than it’s raining outside,” he said. “We’re predicted to have problems, but nobody has seen any consequences yet.”