HARTINGTON — Midwestern states were hit with a storm dubbed as a “bombogenesis” storm last Wednesday and Thursday, creating flash floods across the state in one of the worst storms in Nebraska in the past half-century.
Across the state, bridges have washed away, roads have been closed, and several dams and levees were breached, including the Spencer Dam, which then emptied into the Niobrara River and into the Missouri River.
Cedar County Emergency Management Coordinator Kevin Garvin said he has remained very busy since the storm hit.
On Wednesday, part of Randolph had to be evacuated due to potential flooding reaching homes.
“In Randolph, there is a drainage ditch that runs through town,” said Garvin. “What had happened is, we got so much water so quickly that the bank was full and threatened to go over the top. Randolph re department initiated sandbagging activities, but it was rising faster than they could get sandbags deployed.”
Residents were evacuated but were allowed to return to their homes eight or nine hours later.
While Randolph was the only town in Cedar County to have some evacuations, there were widespread problems across the county as the storm progressed.
Typically in an emergency management scenario, Garvin works from the scene of the incident, but with it being countywide he
was based at his office in Hartington as he coordinated efforts with the emergency personnel throughout the county.
“Everything we needed was here [in Hartington],” said Garvin. “So we coordinated everything from here, and we did the ‘one team, one fight’ thing. The fire department, EMS, city employees, the State Department of Transportation, you know, everybody had their place to play in and we were the hub or coordination center.”
As the storm from Wednesday calmed down, and crews could travel more on Thursday, the goal soon became damage assessment. Barricades were put up in front of roads that washed away or bridges that the approach was no longer there. Many of these problems still remain, and Garvin urged residents to not drive around barricades.
“It just wasn’t a good day for travel on Wednesday or Thursday,” said Garvin.
As of Friday, Garvin said there was one rescue operation that he knew about.
This is fortunate, especially after seeing news of issues in neighboring counties. The Spencer Dam was compromised in Knox County, sending an 11-foot wall of water downstream, affecting at least three counties.
Some bridges have also been swept away in neighboring counties, but Garvin says he has not heard of that being the case in Cedar County. He said some approaches to bridges may be washed away, but the bridges are still intact.
Another part of Garvin’s job is checking in on the Corps of Engineers at the Gavin’s Point Dam.
“I think they’re at 90,000-100,000 cubic feet per second today,” said Garvin on Friday. Garvin said that number is expected to be down to 20,000 cfs by Wednesday, he said.
The amount of water being released at the dam continued to increase as the bombogenesis storm unveiled just how much water was being dumped on states in the midwest.
Fortunately, Cedar County seemed to be able to handle the storm as best as possible, according to Garvin. Yes there is damage, but like many neighboring counties it could have been way worse, he said.
“We held our own on this one pretty well,” said Garvin. “Our emergency preparedness efforts, everybody knew what they needed to do. We had a good plan in place. Everything just went as smooth as it could for as quick as the situation evolved.”
Garvin has helped aid supplies to neighboring counties, like Pierce, where the city of Pierce has faced multiple evacuations following the storm.
“We received word on Monday the State of Nebraska is gathering damage data from all the counties and cities so FEMA can make a determination if Nebraska will receive a disaster declaration,” Garvin said.
Vice President Mike Pence was expected to tour the region Tuesday.
On the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency website, a county by county list shows the estimated monetary amount of damage that has been reported so far.
As of Monday, the total amount of damages was over $265 million, with over $205 million being damage to roads, bridges and other public structures.
In Cedar County, the damage totals are all on public works, with a total of $24,041,909 having been reported so far.
Most of Nebraska is now left in a precarious situation. Nothing but time will help this water ow downstream and ultimately out to the Gulf of Mexico, but as that happens any incoming storms can continue to cause damage.
Garvin again urged people to follow road signs and to turn around if they drive up on a barricade blocking the road. He says it could be a washed out road, a bridge or culvert that could potentially be compromised, or even something else. He also urged people to not go on sightseeing tours on dirt roads and only allow for local traf c for people that live on those roads.
“On the roads, it is quite apparent thus far that there are many of them damaged and it is going to take quite some time to get them all fixed,” wrote Garvin in Monday’s email. “People are asked to be patient. If the roads are barricaded, it is because the road or bridge is damaged and not t for travel. The road crews are working as fast as they can to try and get things fixed, but the amount of damage is such that it is going to take a while in many areas.”
The full scope of damage from this storm will still take more time to unveil, as crews will now go mile by mile on roads across the county to record any problems that will need to be solved.