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Emergency planners will have their eyes on Buffalo County in the coming days.

Region 5/6 Emergency Manager Bill Pook said the impact on Dodge and Saunders counties of water coming down the Platte River will first be seen in the Buffalo County area, about two days before it gets to Dodge County.

Pook warned this week that increased releases of water into the Platte River are planned from Kinglsey Dam and Lake McConaughy north of North Platte.

"The bottom line for all the people on the Saunders County side and the Dodge County side," Pook told the Tribune, "is it's not a matter of if it will flood, we will have flooding on the Platte River this summer."

The remaining question, he said, is how extensive the flooding will be.

"Our big question to the state is how we are going to be able to judge the affect of that increase, what does it mean to our citizens that live along the river," Pook said. "That (information) we don't have.

"From North Platte down into Buffalo County the Platte River is so spread out and the land is so flat that they don't know how much of that is going to be absorbed in that area versus coming downstream," he said. "When the high waters reach Buffalo County, that's when the state of Nebraska and the Army Corps of Engineers is going to start to take measurements to try to see what the affect will be for us downstream."

Saunders County Emergency Manager Terry Miller said Saunders County is not in imminent danger of flooding, but his agency is monitoring the river. Substantial releases from Kingsley Dam, or heavy rains that could swell tributaries feeding the Platte River could change the situation, he said.

"If they were to up (Kingsley Dam releases), say double that or triple that, that would give us a significant increase in flow. And if we were to get a heavy rain, all the influence from the other creeks, we definitely would have some flooding," Miller said.

He said Kingsley Dam was 96 percent full Monday night, but he had no information indicating expected increased releases.

"I haven't heard yet if they're going to up it or not," he said Tuesday. "When I called (the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency) last night, they didn't know for sure yet."

Miller updated Woodcliff residents Monday night on the situation after hearing from NEMA a week ago that Saunders County could reach the 100-year floodplain mark.

"By Friday when I called back NEMA said they believe Saunders County is out of the severe threat right now," he said, however.

"This last week of 100-degree weather I think helped the situation, plus we missed a couple storms. I think that combination has kind of eased the threat a little bit," he said.

"We're not in a crisis situation right now, but we're still in a planning stage," Miller said.

Dodge County officials are in the initial planning process, Pook said. County and Inglewood officials were planning to meet today.

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"What we're doing right now is looking at the big picture, we're not doing detailed planning right now, but we're doing situational awareness to see what the potential weak spots are and get all the data together as much as we can," he said.

Pook sat in on a conference call Monday with the Army Corps of Engineers and state officials.

"The Army Corps of Engineers reported that not only was there an extremely large snowpack in the North Dakota/Montana region, but they did have some extraordinary rains in that area also," Pook said. "That's the reason why there's so much water coming out of the reservoirs. The reservoirs were full at critical mass (maximum capacity), that's the reason they had to release the water."

Pook said officials were considering seeking federal approval to overfill the reservoir at Lake McConaughy.

"They would get permission to exceed their capacity by two feet, and that would prevent a more massive release of water downstream," he explained.

"There are still too many what ifs," Pook said, "but we do know that the water is going to increase. We do know there are some areas in Dodge County at the Platte River where people normally are right at the water's edge, they have very little margin of safety. So we're going to continue to get the word out to those people that they need to be keenly aware.

"We don't want people to panic," Pook said, "but we don't want them to be complacent either."


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