Emergency officials: Please evacuate before it's too late and stay away from flooded areas

Floodwaters continue to rise along the Missouri River surrounding the Liquid Trucking Companies and a BNSF train near Highway 75 in Plattsmouth.

The Missouri, Elkhorn and Platte Rivers were expected Friday to crest over the weekend, but in the meantime, those who live near rivers should evacuate, emergency officials said.

And if you don’t live in those areas, stay away.

Omaha Fire Chief Dan Olsen, who is heading the Omaha-area rescue effort, said flood conditions are making rescues difficult, especially overnight.

“We’ll do our absolute best and risk it all to get to you,” he said. “But sometimes, it might not be possible.”

He and several other officials urged people to evacuate if they’re told to do so.

They said that often people’s homes are dry, so they don’t leave. Then, by the time the flood reaches the home, roads are closed.

“Things are moving and changing at a rapid pace,” Douglas County Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson said.

Olsen noted the firefighters who were stranded in the water Thursday night. Like them, several people who have been rescued are suffering from hypothermia — some of them in critical condition.

The officials also asked onlookers to stop coming into flooded areas because they are getting in the way of first responders.

“Stop doing that,” Borgeson said. “We need our first responders to stay focused.”

Also on Friday, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said she had signed a local disaster declaration because of damage from severe flooding, high winds and rains since Monday in hopes of accessing emergency funds “from all available sources.”

Olsen said there’s no damage estimate yet. He estimated that at least 100 people have been involved in rescue efforts.

And near the Missouri River south of the Papillion Creek, there’s another reason to stay away from floodwater: the City of Omaha’s Papillion Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant has been shut down because of flooding, and raw sewage is going directly into the river.

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That plant handles about 65 million gallons of wastewater per day, or about two-thirds to three-fourths of the wastewater in the metro area, said Jim Theiler, Omaha’s assistant public works director for environment services.

Public Works officials won’t be able to assess the damage until early next week, said Director Bob Stubbe.

And though river levels will drop after that, “We’ll see extended high flows for quite a while,” said Papio-Missouri NRD Director John Winkler.