In mid-March, the 15-bed Niobrara Valley Hospital in Boyd County confronted a dire threat: the extraordinary surge of water sweeping through the area.
Hospital staff took action to evacuate patients and protect equipment and records. As staff completed their own evacuation, water “was all around us, surrounding the building,” said Kelly Kalkowski, the hospital’s CEO.
After a 48-hour wait until it was safe to return, hospital staff began an immediate cleanup. The hospital reopened quickly on an emergency and outpatient basis, though it wasn’t back to full operational capacity until several weeks later, when water sample tests came back clear.
That is just one of the many examples of the inspiring resolve shown by Nebraskans and Iowans in facing enormous dangers and complications from the historic March flooding. The World-Herald’s Erin Duffy on Sunday reported on a wide range of instances.
In all, the flooding spurred the evacuation of communities in 29 Nebraska counties. Parts of southwest Iowa near the Missouri River were especially hard hit, as well. And in western Nebraska, the cold-weather “bomb cyclone” triggered a blizzard. Eighty-one of 93 Nebraska counties issued disaster declarations, plus 56 in Iowa.
Consider two additional examples of Midlands resilience that Duffy’s reporting highlighted.
The flooding proved disastrous for the southwest Iowa communities of Pacific Junction and Hamburg, devastating homes and businesses. Only six of Hamburg’s 32 businesses have reopened, according to the Associated Press. Farm equipment dealer AgriVision Equipment, with locations in both communities, went to enormous lengths to relocate its inventory. “We literally drove millions of dollars of equipment out of Pacific Junction and started dispersing it to higher ground,” said Mark Ford, AgriVision’s director of organizational development. “There was a parade of tractors and combines and sprayers on the highway.” The floodwater rose to 6 to 8 feet in the Hamburg store and 8 to 9 feet in the Pacific Junction location.
In St. Edward, Nebraska, the floodwaters from Beaver Creek posed a fearsome threat to this community of about 800 northwest of Columbus. Water levels made roads and bridges largely impassable. The flooding damaged 38 businesses and 101 houses in St. Edward. “We were kind of like an island,” said Cindy Sorensen, social services director at the Cloverlodge Care Center, a nursing home and rehabilitation facility. Among the community’s many responses: turning facilities including Cloverlodge, the fire hall and the town’s Catholic church into makeshift shelters for displaced town residents. “We opened it up to whoever needed to come up,” said Eydie Schrad, the director of nursing for the nursing home. People “were soaking wet. We offered them some warm towels and took their clothes and threw them in the dryer.”
In these and the other instances in Duffy’s report, Nebraskans and Iowans demonstrated remarkable determination. The recovery will take time, but these communities have shown they’ll be rebuilding on a solid foundation of community spirit.