Melting ice and rain continued to cause flooding throughout Dodge County and northeast Nebraska on Thursday, leading to road and school closures, power outages as well as several evacuations starting Wednesday night.
Just before 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, the Dodge County Emergency Management Facebook page announced that the Fremont Volunteer Rural Fire Department was ordering a voluntary evacuation order for the Fremont area due to an ice jam break that officials warned could see a potential surge of water on the Platte River of four to five feet. The notification did not name any specific neighborhood, though Lottie Mitchell with the city of Fremont said that those in rural areas along the Platte River should seek higher ground.
The National Weather Service had issued a flash flood emergency for residents along the Platte River from Schuyler to Ashland due to the ice jam.
The North Bend Fire Department also ordered a voluntary evacuation order for the city of North Bend, on the south side of the railroad tracks and Highway 30. And just after 5 p.m., a voluntary evacuation order was given for the residents of Legges Lake.
North Bend Fire Chief and Emergency Manager Waylon Fischer said that, as of 1:30 p.m., there had been about a two-foot rise in the river.
“It has not crested the bank yet,” he said at the time. “We are monitoring it.”
The city of North Bend has designated the North Bend School as an emergency shelter. In Fremont, the American Red Cross opened a shelter at the First Lutheran Church on 3200 Military Avenue to house evacuated or displaced individuals.
In a press release, the Red Cross noted that anyone displaced from their homes should come to the church, bringing each family members prescriptions and emergency medications; food that meet unusual dietary requirements; identification to show residence is in affected area; extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies and other comfort items; supplies for children and infants, like diapers or formula; and special items for elderly or disabled family members.
If choosing to evacuate, the Dodge County Emergency Management Office recommends that you do the following before leaving: Gather all individuals, Gather all pets, gather only essential items, bring essential medications with you, turn off all appliances and lights and lock your home before leaving.
In North Bend, from Wednesday and in the afternoon on Thursday, volunteers were working feverishly to fill thousands of sandbags in preparation of potential flooding. North Bend Central Public Schools Superintendent Dan Endorf praised the community’s volunteer efforts.
“The North Bend community is kicking serious butt,” Endorf said. “Just all able-bodied people are rallying around each other to prepare for the worst but remain in good spirit.”
Deteriorating travel conditions have affected one group of North Bend students — there was a state district speech final at Bancroft High School on Wednesday, and the North Bend speech team sent five competitors. Those students are holed up in a West Point hotel, waiting for travel conditions to improve.
“We’re being cautious and safe because they’re in a location that we know about and it’s warm and dry,” Endorf said.
Elsewhere in the county, the Woodcliff area was evacuated Thursday evening for the third time in 24 hours, according to Cedar Bluffs Fire Chief Rob Benke. Woodcliff resident Lauralee Miller told the Tribune that when she left her home, “the water was up to the road.”
The area had been evacuated Thursday night around 1:30 a.m. and taken to the Cedar Bluffs auditorium, but when the waters receded Thursday morning, residents were able to return to their homes. However, rising waters forced two more evacuations on Thursday. A flash flood warning remained in effect until 12:45 a.m. Friday at Woodcliff.
Also on Wednesday night, the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department reported that at around 11:30 p.m., the community of Emerson Estates evacuated, and on Wednesday, Dodge County Emergency Manager Tom Smith confirmed with the Tribune that Winslow’s fire chief had met with residents and recommended that they consider evacuating.
In nearby Washington County, officials have officially made a disaster declaration, and have issued a mandatory evacuation for the area north of Blair for all residents east of County Road 31; east of County Road P31 to County Road 10; and east of County Road P33 South to County Road 18.
Deputies are going from residence to residence notifying occupants, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
A disaster declaration gives the county access to state resources to help recover from disasters like floods. And while Dodge County has not yet made such a declaration, County Board Chairman Bob Missel said it’s likely that he will.
“There’s probably no question in my mind that we will,” Missel said. “[Emergency Manager] Tom Smith, when he gets the time, and a little recovery here, he’ll have to fill out the paperwork, but it’s clear that there’s no question that there’s a disaster in Dodge County right now.”
He added that the county has plenty of time to make such a declaration.
Meanwhile, Scribner, Snyder and much of the rural area around them lost power for a significant portion of the day, beginning at around noon, according to Scribner City Administrator Elmer Armstrong.
Dick Ray of the Burt County Public Power District said that they’d lost a transmission line, affecting about 500 customers in that part of the county. Crews had difficulties getting across the Elkhorn River to inspect it. Ultimately, they found a broken insulator “just east of town in the flood water.” By the end of the day on Thursday, the cities were back online.
“We can’t fix it, but we were able to switch the load around to isolate that area until the water goes down and then we’ll fix it,” Ray said. “It took quite a while just because of trying to find a way to get there was an issue. But we got all of our customers on and hopefully, it’ll stay that way.”
The Elkhorn River was at Scribner’s flood gates and many of the roads in and out of the city were closed, but Armstrong said that the flood gates were holding up without issue. Firefighters were sandbagging one part of the dike that was “a hair lower” by the Elkhorn River.
“They’re filling up sandbags now by the fire hall, and they’re going to raise that up so it’s all at the same height,” Armstrong said.
Several roads are also closed in the area, according to Nebraska 511, including: U.S. 30 between North Bend and Fremont; U.S. 79 from North Bend to Snyder; U.S. 275 from West Point to Scribner; U.S. 77 from Nickerson to Winslow and from County Road G to U.S. 275; U.S. 91 from Nickerson to Blair; and U.S. 30 from Arlington to Kennard.
To stay up to date on road closures, visit www.511.nebraska.gov or dial 511.
On Wednesday, the county was reporting rough conditions on county roads, with many closings. Smith said yesterday that most roads around Maple Creek and basically anything east of Highway 77 was likely closed or difficult to travel over.
Dodge County’s Assistant Highway Superintendent Jean Andrews said on Thursday that most of the county roads were still closed, and the county had run out of barricades, leaving some townships scrambling to figure out how to notify drivers of closed roads. Some county employees were unable to come into work on Thursday because of the road conditions.
Andrews urged caution.
“If you don’t have to go, stay home,” Andrews said. “There are some places that are open, but you just have to hunt for them.”
The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office reported on Facebook on Thursday that every county road in Nickerson Township was closed, warning residents to avoid traveling in the area.
“Do not try to drive over water-covered roads, at this point we are out of barricades,” read the sheriff’s Facebook post. “Resources are spread very thin do not chance it and get stuck we may not be able to get to you!
The Fremont Area United Way has created a 2-1-1 emergency contact line for those affected by flooding. To be connected to local services in Dodge County, call the Fremont Area United Way office at (402) 721-4157.
The United Way also set up a fund for those affected — call the United Way office or text “FremontUW” to 41444.
Logan View Public Schools, North Bend Central Public Schools, Scribner-Snyder Public Schools and Cedar Bluffs Public Schools were all closed on Thursday as those areas faced poor road conditions due to flooding.
Pebble Creek near Scribner peaked at 30.82 feet at 9:30 Wednesday night according to the National Weather Service. The most recent observed values showed it at 17.77 feet at 3:45 p.m. Thursday. The record of 24.48 feet was set on August 5, 1996.
Maple Creek by Nickerson was last observed to be at 16.78 feet at 4:16 p.m. Thursday.
Logan Creek at Uehling reached 20.5 feet at 9:45 p.m. Wednesday and was last observed at 4:15 p.m. Thursday at 20.08. Flood stage for the creek is 18 feet. The record of 20.86 feet was set Feb. 20, 1997.
The Elkhorn River near Winslow was last observed at just above flood stage at 17.97 feet at 2:45 Thursday morning. It is forecast to reach 22.5 by 1 a.m. Friday morning. The record is 20.4 feet and was set on June 5, 2010. At West Point, the Elkhorn River reached 17.65 feet at 11 p.m. Wednesday night and dropped to 16.63 feet at 2:01 p.m. Thursday. Flood stage there is 12 feet.
The Platte River at North Bend was observed at 9.88 feet at 2:15 p.m. Thursday. Downriver at Leshara, the Platte was observed to be at 7.4 feet at 4:15 p.m. Thursday and is forecast to reach 10.2 feet by 7 p.m. Friday night. Flood stage at both locations is 8 feet.
Wahoo Creek near Ithaca reached 21.52 feet at 5 a.m. Thursday morning, just below moderate flood stage. It is forecast to recede to below flood stage of 19 feet by 1 a.m. Friday. The record of 23.22 feet was set on August 2, 1959.
Correction: This story has been updated to include more accurate times of evacuation of Emerson Estates and Woodcliff. Emerson Estates evacuated at around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night while Woodcliff evacuated Thursday morning at around 1:30 a.m.