MILLARD — Historic flooding turned Fremont into an island over the weekend. At points, every highway in and out of town was rendered impassable by rising flood waters from the Platte and Elkhorn Rivers making travel by car impossible.
So efforts to transport residents to and from their homes and workplaces turned to the skies.
Pilots arrived at the Millard Airport from all over to volunteer their skills and their planes to provide passage for people trying to get home and to help bring much-needed supplies to Fremont.
That effort continued on Monday as Fremont residents who were trapped at relatives’ houses, hotels, and even in their offices since Friday got the opportunity to finally go home and reunite with loved ones.
The skies above Millard Airport were abuzz with activity throughout the day as planes continuously took off from the tarmac taking people and supplies on the short flight to Fremont Municipal Airport.
The sense of relief was palpable for many—including several Fremonters who had left their homes for work in Elkhorn and Gretna on Friday just before floodwaters closed routes back to Fremont.
“I shouldn’t have gone to work Friday,” said Tim Edwards, who works delivering medical supplies to nursing facilities and was traveling to Gretna on Friday. “I saw Dodge Street flooding on the westbound lanes and I should’ve just turned around.”
Instead, Edwards found himself unable to return to Fremont on Friday afternoon and wound up spending the weekend at his daughter’s home in Lincoln, before getting a flight on Monday afternoon.
“It was great to be able to stay with my daughter, but it’s been days without my wife and my dogs,” he said. “It’ll be great to see them.”
Edwards, who lives just a few blocks south of the Fremont Municipal Airport near Davenport School, said his wife had been sending updates as much as possible between her time working as a nurse at Methodist Fremont Health, and that fortunately water that led to evacuations in his area of town had not reached his home.
“I guess the water came a block from my house, and they evacuated late Friday or Saturday but were able to get back in yesterday,” he said.
Fellow Fremonter JoAnn Fuhlrodt also counted her blessings just before hopping on a flight back to Fremont after being away from home since Friday.
“I feel so lucky to have a home to go to, but I have to get back and check on my babies,” she said.
While Fuhlrodt lives on the north side of Fremont, her twin daughters both found themselves in places greatly affected by the flooding throughout the weekend.
“One of my twins lives in Inglewood and she was evacuated and I don’t know where she is at,” she said. “My other twin is in Uehling and has been stuck there since last Wednesday.”
Fulhrodt also mulled regret over her decision to go into work as activities director at Life Care Center of Elkhorn on Friday but said in so many words that “the show must go on” when it comes to providing healthy activities to a facility full of seniors.
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“The activities have to happen, so I went to work and I’ve been there ever since,” she said. “My office turned into my bedroom.”
Fuhlrodt said that after checking on her children’s situation she planned on heading back into work in Elkhorn on Tuesday.
“Hopefully I’ll get on another flight tonight or tomorrow morning to come back into work,” she said.
While those longtime Fremont residents just wanted to get back to their homes and families, a few newer residents just wanted to get back to their dorms.
Four members of the Midland University Powerlifting team were also finally able to get back to Fremont after returning from a recruiting trip in Texas.
“We left Thursday morning right before it got bad,” freshman Alexandra Chavez said.
On Monday, Chavez and fellow teammates Jodel Patino, Kailey Jones and Austin Perkins had been at Millard Airport for no more than 30 minutes before being split up into pairs and flown in separate planes back to their temporary homes at Midland University.
After returning to Omaha on Sunday night and finding no way back to Fremont, they spent the night after being put up in a hotel by the school.
For Chavez, Jones and Patino—who are all from Texas—they weren’t sure what to expect because they had never experienced severe flooding like this in their hometowns.
“None of us knew how to react to it, because we’ve never really been in this situation,” Patino said. “You don’t think this is going to happen in the place you live.”
After Jones and Perkins were whisked back to Fremont in one plane, Patino and Chavez were approached by pilot Wade Mayfield—who would be their ride home.
“I just learned to fly yesterday,” Mayfield joked to the pair of Midland students, in an effort to bring some levity to the tough situation.
The pair packed their backpacks into Mayfield’s small aircraft, before all three hopped in and took off.
The flight was one of many Mayfield piloted to Fremont over the past few days, when asked how many people he had taken to and from Fremont over that time he simply replied:
“I’ve lost count.”