The city of Fremont and the surrounding communities of Dodge County continued to battle flooding and evacuations on Saturday.
Amid concern about breaching levees on Friday and Saturday, evacuations had occurred in North Bend, Winslow, and in Inglewood and the area south of the railroad tracks near Fremont. All major roads in and out of Fremont were closed, and by Saturday evening, it was still unclear if there were any paths in and out of the city.
Both the Davenport and Deerfield areas had also been issued voluntary evacuation orders on Saturday, but by the end of the day, those orders had been lifted. City Administrator Brian Newton credited sandbagging efforts along Military and Old Highway 275 for diverting water away from those areas -- efforts that involved a significant volunteer workforce from throughout Fremont.
“We’ve still got hazards, we’re still watching the water west of here, and if something else would happen, we may have to reinstate those, but as of this point, there are no warnings or anything for them,” he said.
As of Saturday evening, the city was combatting two levee breaches which had breached some time late Friday -- one just west of County Road 19 by the Fremont Rod and Gun Club and the other on the east side of County Road 19 in the State Lakes.
Platte River water is overflowing from those breaches into the State Lakes, then Lake Leba and then flowing all the way up to Ridge Road. It had been flooding down south along Ridge Road toward Hormel Park, but as that area became inundated with water, it pushed north over to Military, which prompted sandbagging efforts late Friday night.
It also overflowed a dike west of Pierce Street, sending floodwaters through Inglewood and across Broad Street and down south through the Costco and WholeStone Farms area, toward Old Highway 275, where further sandbagging efforts occurred.
Sawyer Construction was working on repairing the breach near the Rod and Gun Club, which Newton says would help significantly reduce the water entering the area. But the breach in the state lakes is “inaccessible,” Newton said.
Because of that, flooding could persist for however long it takes for the Platte River’s waters to subside. Anything south of the railroad tracks, particularly the Inglewood area, which has been evacuated, would see flooding that could not be stopped, Newton said. But repairing the breach near Rod and Gun Club could help reduce the amount of water coming into Fremont.
“Until the Platte subsides and the water goes down, we’re just still going to see, maybe a lot less water, but we’re still going to see an influence of Platte River water coming through Fremont,” Newton said.
County Road 19, near Bryson Boat Tours, had been washed away, he added.
The cut-off ditch, further west by County Road 18, was “still flowing full,” Newton said. “We have yet to see any water from that cut-off ditch. It’s still filling lakes and once it fills those lakes, it will also start seeing water this way.”
On Friday at 5 p.m., Dodge County became one of 53 counties across the state who had declared an emergency due to the flooding, County Board Chairman Bob Missel confirmed with the Tribune.
In Fremont, shelters for evacuees included First Lutheran Church, Trinity Lutheran Church, Salem Lutheran Church, Fremont Nazarene Church and Fremont Middle School, but by 2 p.m. on Saturday, only Fremont Middle School was accepting new evacuees, as others were at capacity, according to the Three Rivers Public Health Department.
The Fremont Area United Way is collecting monetary donations for individuals at those shelters -- just text FREMONTUW to 41444 or go to www.fremontunitedway.org and click the GIVE button.
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But Saturday’s big story was the large number of volunteers who helped out at shelters or during sandbagging efforts.
The county opened Clarmar Elementary School until 7 p.m. as a place where volunteers could register to help out at shelters or do other flood relief work. It would be opened again on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Volunteers are great but it needs to be an organized effort, and the purpose of [registering] is just so everybody is kind of on the same page,” Missel said, adding that being able to log manpower, hours and costs would be important as the county pursues funding opportunities for flood relief.
The city of Fremont also made use of volunteers -- in a Saturday Facebook post, the Tribune shared a picture of sandbags lining Old Highway 275, all assembled and placed by volunteers.
“That is the most impressive line of sandbags we have ever seen,” a post by the city on their Facebook page read. “Over 100 volunteers showed up to help construct this wall to keep water out.”
After the city initially said that no more volunteers were needed, later in the afternoon, the city asked for more volunteers to come to Gerhold Construction to fill more sandbags in order to fortify the wall along Old Highway 275. Not long after posting the second request to Facebook, the city reported that it had “plenty of volunteers” on hand.
Flood-related issues persisted into Saturday evening. The North Bend Eagle newspaper reported on Twitter that North Bend city officials were testing the water quality to see if the city’s water system could be contaminated, and advised North Bend residents to avoid drinking tap water that had not been boiled for at least a minute.
Fremont’s water, meanwhile, was safe to drink, according to city and county officials, who spent part of the day on social media disputing rumors to the contrary.
Fremont also faced power outages for part of the day on Saturday. And by 7:30 p.m., Fremont police were responding only to injury accidents, advising residents in property damage accidents to exchange insurance information and contact their insurance company.
Missel spoke of the cleanup to come. County roads have been battered due to the floods, with a majority of them closing down between Thursday and Saturday. Even after the flood waters recede, there will be concerns -- from finding gravel to replace roads to inspecting bridges.
“We’ve got a big concern looking ahead at roads and bridges in the county,” Missel said. “The highway superintendent’s got to go out and inspect those bridges and make sure they’re still sound and could pass inspection and allow vehicle traffic to get on them.”
Missel said he had never seen flooding conditions this serious in Dodge County before.
“The corps of engineers always talks about 50-year, 100-year events, and clearly this is a hundred-year event,” Missel said. “It’s hard to wrap your head around the devastation to our community and the people that are displaced from their homes, and what will they have to come back to.”