Historic Flooding Continues Along the Platte and Missouri Rivers

by Allison Mollenkamp, NET News

March 16, 2019, 5:30 p.m.

Historic flooding continues in central and eastern Nebraska today. As of Friday night 53 Nebraska counties were under emergency declarations.

The scene in Nebraska City along the Missouri River is deceptively peaceful. Nancy Pietzyk watched the flooding with Bruce Pietzyk, and in turn enjoyed a little bird watching.

“And enjoy those cardinals. They’re just like all over,” Nancy Pietzyk said.

The Pietzyks live near Eagle, between Lincoln and Omaha. They’re far enough from the rivers that their house is safe from flooding. However, they have seen water damage to their pond from smaller waterways swelling.

Power poles in Nebraska City (Photo by Allison Mollenkamp, NET News)

“All the farms around all go down waterways and our waterway was like a river for a while, but our tube kept up with it and it did not breach our dam,” Nancy Pietzyk said.

The Pietzyks were curious about the river being so high. They were in a pretty safe area on a small surface road, away from bridges or first responders. In areas those areas, authorities discourage people from slowing down to take pictures of the flooding. Extra traffic can make it harder for first responders to handle emergency situations caused by flooding.

A road in Brownville, with road closure barriers mostly under water in the distance. (Photo by Allison Mollenkamp, NET News)

Some residents are also working through the flood to protect their homes and businesses.

Lisa Smith lives in Auburn, but in the morning she was sitting near the Missouri River in Brownville while her family worked.

“My husband is the captain of the Spirit of Brownville. His family owns the River Inn Resort. And my husband and son are out right now on a john boat checking out the fleet to make sure it’s safe,” Smith said.

The Spirit of Brownville is a dinner cruise boat. The River Inn Resort is a floating bed and breakfast. Efforts to keep the fleet safe have been ongoing through the flood this week.

“This is probably, I’d say probably the tenth time actually that they’ve gone out,” Smith said.

That diligence comes from a concern that flooding could lead to property damage on the fleet of boats.

“Their main concern is just making sure, their safety number one, but, number two, making sure the fleet is where it needs to be and everything’s secure and so it doesn’t go floating downriver,” Smith said.

Advance notice meant Smith’s family could prepare for the flood. There are no passengers on board either boat at this point.

The sign that usually points to the River Inn Resort in Brownville. (Photo by Allison Mollenkamp, NET News)

“Everybody was evacuated and I think there was only one camper that was down, but they got them out before all the flooding and they were warned,” Smith said.

Flood levels are not as bad as expected near the Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville.

Mark Becker is Supervisor of Media Services for Nebraska Public Power District.

“Actually, this afternoon we’re starting to see a slight reduction from what we were seeing the last 24 hours,” Becker said.

The plant is still operating at full power, despite some flooding near it.

“Yeah the roads are flooded at the plant and they are, we have a group of employees who are in the facility that will be manning the operations as we move forward,” Becker said.

Forecasts vary for the Missouri and Platte Rivers. At Brownville, the river level is expected to hold about steady this weekend and crest on Tuesday. The Platte is expected to go down.

At least one man has been killed by the flooding. Many others have been evacuated. The state emergency management agency reminds drivers to not go around barricades or drive through water over the road.