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Nebraska Remains in State of Emergency

Blizzards and Flooding have wreaked havoc on the Cornhusker State.

An Emergency Declaration for the state of Nebraska continues, as the state suffers from deadly flooding in many of its primary waterways, including the Niobrara and Platte Rivers.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts declared a statewide emergency on March 12. On March 16, Ricketts, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, and state senators visited Fremont, Niobrara, and Lynch as they surveyed the impact of historic flooding. They joined members of the Nebraska National Guard to get an aerial view of flooding impact as they traveled to thank Red Cross volunteers in Fremont, address a community meeting in Niobrara, and receive a briefing in Lynch.

In the last week, Nebraska has experienced historic flooding and extreme weather conditions in nearly every region of the state. The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has been working with local, state, and federal officials to provide assistance to the counties in need while gauging the total damage and impact. 

Ricketts and Sasse have contacted President Donald Trump in an effort to have the state declared a national emergency, which would allow it to obtain Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance. President Trump on Friday tweeted, “Just spoke w/@GovRicketts. The people of Nebraska & across the Midwest, especially the Farmers & Ranchers, are feeling the impacts from severe weather. The first responders & emergency response teams have done a great job dealing w/record flooding, high winds & road closures.”

Spencer Dam collapsed March 14, 2019 in Nebraska
Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

Flooding throughout the state has resulted from a unique weather system that dropped blizzard conditions in western Nebraska and rain in the eastern part of the state. Walls of water 8 feet high on the Platte River, according to the Omaha World Herald, crashed into bridge piers, wiping out a dozen bridges or more. The Niobrara River also has flooded, and jams of ice took out the Spencer Dam in Knox County (see photo above). 

Scores of livestock are missing, injured, or dead.

The flooding also claimed the life of a Columbus, Nebraska, man. According to news reports, James Wilke perished when the bridge on which he was driving a tractor to help a stranded motorist was swept away by flooding waters. The 50-year-old Wilke, according to his cousin, Paul, was a community leader, was active in the school board, and was a church elder. He was an excellent cattle feeder and farmer, Paul Wilke added. James Wilke is survived by his wife, Rachel, and three children. His funeral is Tuesday. 

How to help

In a statement, Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president, said, “Nebraska is a special place with special people. Many of our friends and neighbors across the state are suffering. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost or are missing loved ones, and to all those who have been impacted by the recent blizzard and massive flooding events.”

The Nebraska Farm Bureau is one of a number of agencies sponsoring relief efforts.  “The Agriculture Disaster Exchange operates like an online want ad page. If members have extra hay to sell or donate to a livestock producer in need, they can post it there. If members need help or equipment to remove debris after flooding, they can post that type of request, as well. Those are just examples of how the exchange can be used by our members. The goal is to provide an online clearinghouse so members can interact and help each other during tough times,” said Nelson.

Here is a partial list of resources: 

Hauling Requirements Lifted

Meanwhile, Ricketts has directed the Nebraska State Patrol to temporarily waive certain requirements for trucks traveling in and through Nebraska in support of efforts to the response to severe flooding. This order is in addition to the governor’s emergency declaration issued on Tuesday.

“In light of the historic flooding and devastation our communities are facing, the state has temporarily waived the length and weight requirements for trucks traveling in and through Nebraska,” said Governor Ricketts. “This will help move materials more efficiently around the state as we work together to respond to the impacts of the flooding and severe weather.”

The directive is effective immediately until April 15, 2019. Nebraska is working with surrounding states to encourage them to temporarily ease their restrictions, as well.

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