PLATTSMOUTH – Cass County Sheriff Bill Brueggemann has seen local residents encourage each other through many times of tragedy over the past 28 years.
He said that same type of cooperation is now taking place during the worst flooding in recorded history.
Brueggemann and other members of the Cass County Sheriff’s Office have been assisting people across the area with their flood-related needs over the past several days. Brueggemann said deputies have witnessed local residents display many acts of kindness and generosity toward each other.
“It is unbelievable the support that people are showing towards those who have lost their homes and property, and the support that all the first responders are getting,” Brueggemann said. “It is truly a gift from God.”
Brueggemann has served as Cass County Sheriff since 1991 and has taken part in many emergency operations during that time. Two of the worst situations came when historic flooding moved through the area both in 1993 and 2011.
Many other members of city departments and local police, fire and rescue crews also took part in flooding missions in those years. They have used that expertise to try to assist people in the best possible way in 2019.
The Flood of 2019 has already set several historic marks. The Platte River at Louisville soared to an all-time high level of 13.74 feet at 6:15 p.m. Saturday. It is the first time in recorded history that the Platte has gone above 13 feet at Louisville. The previous record of 12.45 feet came on March 30, 1960.
The Missouri River at Plattsmouth reached an all-time high mark of 40.62 feet at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. It is the first time in recorded history that the Missouri has gone above 37 feet at Plattsmouth. The previous record of 36.73 feet came on June 30, 2011.
National Weather Service forecasters are expecting both rivers to continue rising through Sunday evening. Authorities closed both Highway 75 bridges over the Platte River on Friday. Water began spilling over the bridges late Friday night. All traffic is now being detoured on Highway 66 to Louisville and across the two lanes of the Highway 50 bridge.
Brueggemann said one of the biggest challenges law enforcement officials have faced is the behavior of some drivers. He said the vast majority of residents have been aware of the dangerous conditions by the rivers and have done their best to be considerate of the safety of others. A few people have chosen to take a different approach to the situation, which has caused delays for fellow drivers.
“For the most part, the sightseers and drivers have been very respectful of conditions,” Brueggemann said. “We’ve been having some problems with people slowing down, and even stopping their cars, on the Highway 50 bridge to take pictures. (Friday) during rush hour, there were two cars (one on each shoulder) pulled over on the bridge and they were actually out of their cars taking pictures. In the meantime, traffic was backed up for over a mile.”
First responders from local agencies such as Cass County Sheriff’s Office, Cass County Emergency Management Agency, Cass County Department of Roads, Plattsmouth Police Department, Plattsmouth Volunteer Fire Department, Plattsmouth Rescue, Louisville Fire and Rescue, Murray Fire and Rescue and Union Fire and Rescue have all helped people with their flooding needs. City crews from both Plattsmouth and Louisville have also been busy working with needs such as water resources and management.
The State Emergency Operation Center (SEOC) opened in Lincoln on Wednesday and will remain open as long as needed. The center includes personnel from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, Nebraska State Patrol, Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Fire Marshal’s Office, Nebraska Department of Transportation, Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and Nebraska National Guard. Members of many of those agencies have assisted with Cass County flooding needs over the past several days.