Naturally Nebraska: Loup River Floods


In Nebraska, natural disasters can include flooding and wildfires, all in the same season. Emergency mangers in the state know, the only constant is that the weather is never consistent.

In the spring of 2010, the Loup River flooded leaving small towns without pass. Neighbors were cut off from neighbors, as flood waters took out entire bridges.

"Without FEMA funds, we'd be up a creek," said Valley County Highway Superintendent Jay Meyer. What he meant to say was they would be floating down the creek alongside what was once a bridge.

"There was such pressure it lifted up the bridge, the entire super structure, and it floated down the river half a mile," he said.

Two and a half years ago, when the Loup River flooded, several bridges were simply knocked out of service. The destruction cut off direct access for many to Taylor and Ord.

"They have to go a lot of miles before they can get back to Taylor, to cross over the river and get to a highway," said a man NTV interviewed on June 14, 2010. The destruction was overnight, and could have been final. "The bridges alone were $400,000 to $500,000 and on a county annual road budget of $1.3 million dollars that's huge," said Meyer.

"It's going to take a lot of money to fix this, "said another man surveying the damage in 2010, "and it's not going to just happen overnight."

Not overnight, but not nearly as many years as it could've been if counties were forced to foot the bill themselves. "We still might not have the bridges," said Meyer.

On July 15, 2010, just one month after the flooding, President Obama declared 53 counties in Nebraska federal disasters eligible for public assistance. "We received about $600,000 worth of damage funds from FEMA and our payback is $80,000," he said.

Unlike the fires around Ainsworth, the majority of the damage done during the floods of 2010 were to public infrastructure; damage to the tune of 16 million dollars in two weeks statewide. It's that difference that put this disaster over the mark for FEMA.

"We got pretty lucky for the amount of damage done with minimal cost to the county," said Meyer.

Although the declaration came quickly, the dollars didn't. Valley County is just now receiving their final check from FEMA. The process included state audits by NEMA, who then upon receiving funds, passed them down to the county.

By utilizing their inheritance funds, Valley County was able to start construction in just a matter of months. They are now essentially repaying those dollars back, penny for penny.

It's a headache, said Meyer to go through the process, but when you're facing total destruction... it's a process, he said, he's happy is in place.