I was scrolling through Apple News this morning and ran across an Axios article covering the flooding happening here in Nebraska. To recap what has been an eventful weather pattern over the past month, my area has seen two significant snow storms & brutally cold temps, followed by a period of warming then a “bomb cyclone” system which dropped more snow for some areas, rain for others, and both for the area in between. Much of the central portion of the state was in both a Blizzard Warning and a Flood Warning simultaneously. All of this has been followed by another warming period. This was a recipe for disaster.
Nebraska has three major rivers that make up its topography. Across the middle of the state is the Platte River, a 310 mile long stretch of braided stream, which spills into the Missouri River near Omaha. From its source on the North Platte River, it combines for over 1,000 miles of river. It’s usually a very shallow river, with many sandbars embedded throughout, thus the braided part. It’s not uncommon to hear the sound of airboats moving up and down the river during the summertime.
To the north is the Niobrara River, which starts in Wyoming, eventually joining the Missouri River along the Nebraska-South Dakota border. My experience with this river is near Valentine, Nebraska, where you can find Smith Falls, the state’s tallest waterfall at 63ft (19m), which feeds the Niobrara. Despite another stream feeding the river, it still isn’t that deep at this point, maybe only being about waist high, if that.
Along the Nebraska-Iowa border, is the Missouri River, a much deeper river than the other two.
Along these rivers there’s been a significant ice pack due to the very cold temperatures we’ve had here since around the new year. When the rains came along with the significant melting of the snowpack, the water had nowhere to go due to the large volumes of ice, causing these rivers to breach levees and overspill their banks. In some cases, entire towns have been evacuated and a few lives have been spent due to the flooding.
It’s a shock to see the images on the local news. What makes it surreal is that my city of Lincoln is experiencing none of this. We have no flooding to speak of, as the only major tributary, Salt Creek, has extremely deep banks and isn’t at risk of overflowing here. Because if this, I feel disconnect with what many others in my state are dealing with. I can’t fathom it.
I’ve been through many of these towns before. I have family in Columbus and have been camping near Fremont (both near the Platte). I pass through Elkhorn and Ashland regularly going to Omaha and have driven the roads which are now flooded out. It’s weird to see these places in the state they’re in. It doesn’t seem like something that’s happening within a 30 minute drive from me. Still, it’s heartbreaking.
I have a friend who owns a food truck who was supposed to have a day long event here in town today, but has instead cut that event in half so he could go offer meals to some of the first responders helping with the rescue and recovery efforts here until the state. I’m curious to hear what his first hand accounts are when he’s back in town tonight. Sometimes you just need to hear it from someone you know for it to fully connect.