KEARNEY — For the second time in five months Kearney and the surrounding communities are bailing out from floodwaters.
From a marquee mention on Good Morning America and wet-dry vacuums worth their weight in gold across south-central Nebraska, residents are battling the aftermath of heavy rainfall in a short amount of time Monday night.
Storms dumped between 1.6 inches in parts of Harlan and Sherman counties to more than 8 inches in areas around Overton, Loomis and Hildreth. The Kearney-Riverdale area include reports of 5.6-7.6 inches of rain.
“Kearney Fire has been doing a lot of water rescues,” said Darrin Lewis, Buffalo County emergency manager.
Kearney Volunteer Fire Department were called Tuesday morning to the Van Vleet Trailer Court southwest of Kearney to rescue residents and their pets trapped by floodwaters.
An air boat - one from a member of the Pleasanton Volunteer Fire Department and one owned by Norris Marshall of Kearney, helped Kearney firefighters rescue trapped residents near the Van Vleet Trailer Court southwest of Kearney.
By 9:20 a.m., most of the residents had been cleared.
Firefighters also responded to a couple trapped inside their vehicle in floodwaters on Highway 30 near Eagle Road. “Kearney Fire had to work around some sinkholes to get to people,” Lewis said.
Nearly 40 vehicles were stranded in the middle of Kearney streets where water stood nearly 4 feet high. City of Kearney employees were working this morning on lift station issues as well, Lewis said.
The Elm Creek Volunteer Fire Department sandbagged key areas Monday night, trying to protect infrastructure, he said.
U.S. Highway 30 remained closed be Kearney and Elm Creek late this morning because it was impassable in places due to high floodwaters. Buffalo County remains in a flash flood watch until 7 a.m. Wednesday.
“The only way you could get to Odessa was to take the interstate, but you weren’t going very far because the truck stop is flooded,” Lewis said. “There’s water standing everywhere.”
The Sapp Brothers Truck Stop, just north of I-80 at exit 263 at 380 Odessa Road south of Odessa, is closed due to the flooding.
Reports indicated about 20 semis and as many cars are stranded at the truck stop because high water is keeping anyone from going in or out.
Law enforcement officials are directing people who get off at exit 263 to move on down I-80.
As rain pelted down Monday night, truckers and cars pulled into the truck stop because visibility was so poor on the highway. By 6:30 a.m., water was up to the doors of semis that had parked there. The water appears to be four feet deep in some places,
An unnamed store employee said, “We got people who were here last night and couldn’t leave. We have about 20 trucks, and that many cars or more. Then the water rose so fast they couldn’t leave.”
She said the store and restaurant remain open, but people are not being permitted to leave because of high water. Odessa Road is washed out.
In the Riverdale and north Kearney areas, the Wood River was over its bridges. Officials in downstream Gibbon were preparing for potential flooding. In March, Gibbon was hit hard with floodwaters when the Wood River overflowed its banks.
Lewis didn’t know the extent of any damage this morning, but asked motorists to stay off the roads. “Turn around, don’t drown,” Lewis emphasized.
Floodwaters also were threatening three portable buildings at Kearney Regional Medical Center in southwest Kearney. Nearby, much of Yanney Park was under water this morning.
At KRMC, 804 22nd Ave., water covered the southeast parking lots this morning. “The parking lot out back is gone,” said Amanda Polacek, KRMC director of marketing.
The flood also affected three mobile units parked in the lot, which are being used by 20 hospital administrators and business personnel during the expansion project at the hospital. Polacek said those teams were asked to work from home today so the maintenance team can check out the mobile units.
Polacek said flooding did not affect the interior of the hospital or medical clinics, and everything was proceeding normally today.
Travis Gregg, director of strategy and business development, said he got a text and a photo on his phone early this morning saying that employees in the mobile units would not be able to work there today.
He said when employees arrived at 6 a.m., the water was still “a couple hundred yards south” of the hospital, but between 6 and 8:30 a.m., “the water came up really quick. It was touching the bottom of two of the trailers,” he said. At 10:30 a.m., he said, the water has “held steady.”
“There’s flooding on the east side of the hospital and the parking lot. Cars are parking along the street up to 11th Street,” Gregg said.
Later this morning, Gregg said he had a meeting near Second Avenue and West 36th Street while heading back to the hospital, he found Second Avenue closed south of 11th Street. “But as of 11 a.m., the hospital itself is dry,” he said.
Lewis said the rain started falling off and on around 2:30 p.m. Monday with heavier rains starting around 8 p.m.
Buffalo County went through several rounds of thunderstorm warnings and flash flood warnings Monday night, although Lewis said neither hail nor tornadoes was reported across the region.
However, Gibbon lost power for awhile and some power lines were down in Kearney due to downed tree limbs, he said.
At the University of Nebraska at Kearney, the most significant damage occurred when the courtyard on the south side of the Nebraskan Student Union was under water. The water flooded the lower level of the food court area inside the student union with 2-3 feet of water, said UNK spokesman Todd Gottula.
Wood chips and other debris were inside the building all the way to Starbucks, which is about 150 feet from the main door, he said.
Otto Olsen also received water damage in basement stairwells.
Much of region flooded
“Our biggest problem is high water,” said Dawson County Emergency Manager Brian Woldt, who added that there still was a lot of water coming into the Cozad area this morning.
The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources’ NeRain network had reports of nearly 5 inches of rain just east of Lexington and 3.87 inches as of 7 this morning at Cozad.
Woldt said a motorist was rescued from high water south of Cozad overnight.
“At this time, everybody is safe,” he said, although he was worried about reports coming in this morning of people in Lexington trying to drive where they shouldn’t be.
“Lexington still has water over Highway 30 in numerous spots,” he said, and there are many Dawson County roads under water.
Some Lexington basement apartments were “inundated with water” Monday night and residents had to leave.
According to a press release from the Grand Island office of the American Red Cross, 23 individuals in Lexington are being assisted after their apartment building in Lexington was flooded overnight.
There were eight units involved, with 20 adults and three children, at the building located at 1503 N. Erie St.
Red Cross caseworkers will follow up with those affected in the coming days to work on a longer-term recovery plan.
Woldt said it still was to be determined if the Red Cross would open a shelter, but the volunteers will at least help with disaster assessment after the flooding.
His advice, echoed by other area emergency managers, is for people to not attempt to travel any roads or highways covered with water, or go around barricades.
Phelps County residents also were dealing with flooding problems on rural roads and in town.
Emergency Manager Justin Norris told the Hub that a major problem was in Loomis where a lift broke on the sewer system, causing basement flooding and a sewage backup for about a half-dozen houses.
The NeRain system has a report of 8.8 inches of rain at Loomis.
Two other areas of flooding concerns were at the Prairie Museum and golf course in northwest Holdrege. A broken culvert in the golf course area had led to flooding and septic issues for homes in that area, Norris said.
Rescues were required for some cars that went around a barrier and were stuck in the flooded railroad underpass on the east side of Holdrege, he said, and there also was one other flooded highway rescue.
When asked how the current flooding compares to the mid-March floods, Norris said it seems to be as bad or may be worse as the damage assessments continue.
He added that a big issue for Phelps County now is fixing culverts and roads again that only recently were repaired after the March storm.
Roger Powell, emergency managers for Gosper and Furnas counties, said Turkey Creek at the county line was measured at 26 feet this morning, “which is beyond a record high.”
He also said there is lots of water over rural roads in Gosper County, but there had been no emergency rescues as of 9 a.m. The highest rainfall amount he had heard for the county was 7.55 inches.
Powell added that the Furnas County Water Rescue Team was on standby.
Other emergency managers and sheriff’s department officials in Kearney, Franklin and Sherman counties said there were no flood-related issues in their areas, even though the NeRain reports included 6-8 inches of rain in the Hildreth area, nearly 5 inches south of Wilcox and south of Naponee, and 4-6 inches around Minden.