As northeast Nebraska continues to deal with widespread flooding due to melting snow and rain, several roads and schools around Dodge County closed down on Wednesday.
U.S. Highway 275 between West Point and Scribner was closed, as was U.S. Highway 91 from Nickerson to the county line, the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office said on social media. According to the Nebraska Roads 511 website, U.S. Highway 79, from North Bend to Snyder was also closed.
Dodge County Emergency Manager Tom Smith told the Tribune that there is an ice jam on the Platte River, and that Ridge Road in Fremont was facing some flooding.
Smith was dealing with a lot of county road closures throughout the day Wednesday, the most significant of which was County Road F, between Scribner and U.S. Highway 77, which he said is one of the county’s “most primary roads.” Closures also included the Scribner-Herman road and “basically every road near Maple Creek,” Smith said. Anything east of Highway 79 was likely closed or difficult to travel over, Smith said on Wednesday.
“We’re working with multiple departments on making sure that people are safe,” Smith said, later adding that the county road department was “out there doing damage assessment.”
“Everybody’s just got to exercise caution,” Smith said.
When asked about county road closures on Wednesday, Dodge County Zoning Administrator Jean Andrews said the county had “more that are closed than we do that are open.”
The county was working to barricade all of the closed roads, and usually helps provide barricades on roads managed by townships. But with the county dealing with so many closures of its own, many townships were scrambling to find their own barricades, Andrews said.
“If you don’t have to travel anywhere, don’t,” Andrews said.
In the aftermath of the flooding, the county will face a new challenge in acquiring gravel to repair the roads, Andrews said.
“It’s just going to be horrendous,” Andrews said.
The Dodge County Sheriff said in a Wednesday Facebook post that drivers should “USE EXTREME CAUTION if you must travel” on county roads.
Cedar Bluffs Fire Chief Rob Benke had a similar warning regarding the county roads.
“There’s so many of them that have water running across them,” Benke said. “Nobody should be on a country road right now. Nobody.”
Two roads in the city of Fremont were closed as of 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, according to City Administrator Brian Newton: Airport Road between Linden Avenue and 23rd Street and Ridge Road.
In a press release, state officials recommended checking the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s 511 website at www.511.nebraska.gov or dialing 511. They also added that the flooding is “a rapidly changing event” with road conditions changing quickly.
“Please remember, just a few inches of water can impact your vehicle’s ability to navigate, cause it to stall or even float it,” the press release said. “Should you encounter water over a roadway, never drive through it. Turn around — don’t drown.”
Gov. Pete Ricketts urged Nebraskans to continue monitoring the weather and area waterways in the coming days, to be prepared “for historic levels of flooding, even if it has not hit their community yet.”
Meanwhile, in Winslow, the fire chief made rounds to residents to inform that they may want to consider evacuation, though there was no mandatory evacuation, Smith said.
Wahoo Neumann Schools dismissed students at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday “due to the immediate danger of water running over our highways.”
Scribner-Snyder Community Schools closed school at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday, as the city reported on its Facebook page that flood gates would be going up.
North Bend Central Public Schools also announced that it had closed on Wednesday. In the morning, the North Bend City Council ordered a sand truck and sandbags as a preventative measure for businesses and buildings in the area.
According to Council Member Ken Streff, as of 11:30 a.m., dozens of volunteers, consisting of community members, school staff members and students, had put together about 2,800 sandbags. He emphasized that it was a precaution.
“Nothing is flooding in terms of homes or businesses due to the river or rain situation yet,” Streff said. “We’ve heard, obviously there’s flooding around us in some ditches, and obviously the river is close and the Shell Creek in Schuyler is fairly close.”
North Bend Central Superintendent Dan Endorf said he decided to close schools at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning because of “significant flooding in and around North Bend” and dense fog.
Endorf praised volunteers and city leadership for their work. By the afternoon, Endorf said as many as 100 people had shown up to volunteer. He said that the district asked that any of its staff that was able to come to the building come out and help with the sandbagging efforts. School cooks provided a meal for all the volunteers and helpers. Custodians had been working since before dawn.
“Last week, our community rallied around our boys basketball team, and today our communities rallying around each other,” Endorf said. “There were people coming from every walk of life that came to our boys’ basketball tournament. This week, again, those same people are coming out of the woodwork and everybody’s pitching in the best they can to get us prepared for the potential of pretty significant flooding.”
Volunteers were working indoors at Frontier Cooperative.
Via Facebook, the Dodge County Sheriff urged drivers to be smart about going down roads with water.
“Remember, if water goes over roadways, Turn around!” a post read. “Be sure to also respect individuals that may have roadways shut down. It is for your safety.”
The most recent observed values show Pebble Creek near Scribner approaching major flood stage. At 2:45 Wednesday afternoon the creek was at 23.3 feet according to the National Weather Service, well over its flood stage of 18 feet. The record of 24.48 feet was set on August 5, 1996. There was no flood stage forecast provided by the NWS.
Maple Creek by Nickerson was observed at 14.24 feet at 3:16 Wednesday afternoon, up from 5.68 feet observed just after 7 a.m. Flood stage is 11.5 feet and moderate flood stage is 13 feet. The creek is forecast to crest at 15.1 feet at 1 a.m. Thursday morning.
Logan Creek at Uehling was observed at 19.55 feet at 3:15 Wednesday afternoon. The creek is forecast to reach 20.2 feet by 7 a.m. Thursday morning. Flood stage for the creek is 18 feet.
The Elkhorn River near Winslow was observed at just above flood stage at 17.18 feet at 2:45 Wednesday afternoon. It is forecast to reach 22.2 by 7 a.m. Thursday morning. The record is 20.4 feet and was set on June 5, 2010. At West Point, the Elkhorn River was at 13.79 feet at 3:31 p.m. and is forecast to reach 14.8 feet by 7 a.m. Thursday morning. Flood stage there is 12 feet.
The Platte River at North Bend was observed at 8.73 feet at 3:15 Wednesday afternoon and is forecast to reach 9.7 feet by 1 a.m. Friday morning. Downriver at Leshara, the Platte was observed to be at 7 feet at 3:15 p.m. and is forecast to reach 10.1 feet by 7 a.m. Friday morning. Flood stage at both locations is 8 feet.
Wahoo Creek near Ithica was observed at 20.39 feet at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, just over a foot above flood stage. It is forecast to reach 22 feet by 7 Thursday morning. The record of 23.22 feet was set on August 2, 1959.