Washed-out roads, toppled bridges and flooded canals all cost a lot of money to repair. Just ask Nance County, just west of Columbus and the spot where two rivers flow into the larger Loup River.
Early estimates put the repair cost for public infrastructure at $65,000 for each of the county’s 3,569 residents. That’s $231 million overall, according to preliminary estimates from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. That figure doesn’t include damage to private property, which is estimated at another $1.5 million.
The estimates will probably change, and Nance County officials say they expect the public infrastructure figure to come down. Still, Nance is expected to remain among the Nebraska counties hit hardest in last month’s flooding.
“It was just kind of the perfect scenario” for flooding, said Russell Callan, general manager of the Lower Loup Natural Resources District.
The ground was frozen, and so were the rivers. When the rain came, the snow started melting, but it couldn’t be absorbed into the frozen ground. In Nance County, the Beaver River and Cedar Creek both feed into the Loup River.
“Those large pieces of ice are like a bulldozer flowing down the river,” Callan said, taking out bridges and flooding the Loup Power District’s canal.
In the end, 13 of the county’s bridges were damaged or unusable because the approaches were washed out, though some have already been repaired.
Statewide, the damage to public property is estimated to be more than half a billion dollars, and that figure is likely to rise as more losses are reported. Private citizens have reported millions of dollars more in damage on top of that.
Larry Dix, the head of the Nebraska Association of County Officials, said he expects Nance to remain the hardest-hit county, or at least one of the worst, as more damage estimates come in. He said Nance, like other counties in the state, is finding that bridges are particularly expensive to repair.
“It’s one thing to sort of dump a bunch of gravel on a road,” he said. “But when you have to go through and repair a bridge, you’re just going to spend all kinds of money.”