- Preparations were being made to shut down a nuclear power plant along the rising Missouri River.
- Nebraska emergency management spokesman said there is no safety concerns at the plant.
- Fremont, Nebraska, the state’s sixth largest city, became cut off by floodwaters.
- Two levees were breached Saturday morning north of Fremont, triggering mandatory evacuations.
- A Nebraska farmer was killed trying to rescue a stranded motorist. Two others are missing.
Nebraska’s sixth largest city has become “an island” amid historic flooding in parts of the Midwest that has left one man dead, forced a mandatory evacuations, breached dams and levees and may force a nuclear power plant to shut down out of an abundance of caution.
Fremont, Nebraska, lies about 40 miles northeast of Omaha and is home to more than 26,000 residents. As of Friday afternoon, flooded roadways coming in and out of the city were closed, leaving the city cut off, the Fremont Tribune reported.
“We are asking people to stay out of the area. We are getting a lot of sightseers, and it’s impeding crew from getting sandbags and fill (material) to where we need to go,” Lottie Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the city, told the Omaha World-Herald.
On Saturday, two levees were breached northwest of the city, triggering a flash flood emergency and mandatory evacuations. One of the two breaches was later patched.
Mike Wight, public information officer for the Nebraska Emergency Management Office, told weather.com they are keeping a close eye on the situation in Fremont.
Rescues and evacuations are continuing throughout impacted areas and the rising Missouri River in the town of Brownville, Nebraska, meant officials were preparing to shut down the Cooper Nuclear Power Station, according to a press release.
Wight told weather.com there is “concern” for the nuclear plant but emphasized that it “is perfectly safe.”
“We don’t expect any safety issues but we do expect they will get flooding around them and if it gets too far they will shut it down,” Wight said, adding that it will not be an “issue with power supply” because they can get power from other sources within the grid.
“It is something we’re really watching closely,” Wight said, noting that nuclear power plants “are extremely conservative in their emergency plan.”
“They will go to a new level of status way before they need to be,” Wight said. “(Cooper Nuclear ) is absolutely not having any issues that create a safety issue for anyone.”
Mark Becker, spokesman for the Nebraska Public Power District, previously told the Omaha World-Herald that if the river rises to 45.5 feet this weekend, as projected by the NWS, the nuclear power plant, which accounts for 35 percent of NPPD’s power, will have to be shut down. The water surpassed that level early Saturday and reached an all-time record 45.64 inches.
Wight, who noted that NEMA is in constant communication with the plant, said the plant remained functioning Saturday morning.
On Saturday, Black Hawk helicopters were dropping 1.5-ton sandbags to protect wells that serve the city of Lincoln, home to more than 284,000 people. The wells are located on an island in the rising Platte River.
After surveying the extensive flooding from the air, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said in a Friday press conference that it was the “most widespread flooding damage we’ve had in the last half-century.”
“Even when we were away from the water system, we saw that the fields were very saturated,” he added.
The U.S. Coast Guard closed all traffic Friday on a 70-mile stretch of the Missouri River from 50 miles south of Omaha, Nebraska, to St. Joseph Missouri.
Meanwhile, a portion of Union Dike in Valley, Nebraska, reportedly failed Friday, triggering a flash flood emergency. Residents in the area were urged to evacuate, including the NWS Omaha, which issued the flood emergency.
NWS Hastings will take over forecasting duties for the office.
A Nebraska farmer identified as James Wilke, 50, was killed Thursday after the tractor he was using to attempt to rescue a stranded motorist was carried away by floodwaters, the Omaha World-Herald reported. The incident occurred at Shell Creek near Columbus in eastern Nebraska.
Two other men are missing and presumed dead. Scott E. Goodman, 30, of Norfolk was seen at 4 a.m. Thursday on top of his car near a levee that failed. It was reported that he was later seen being carried away by a surge of water, according to the Norfolk Daily News.
A second, unidentified man may have been swept away Thursday when the Spencer Dam collapsed on the Niobrara River.
When the dam failed, it caused a large ice floe to jam a hole in a small electrical plant, where employees were working. No other injuries were reported. The failure also forced the evacuation of dozens of residents along the river.
Meanwhile, Ericson Dam in north-central Nebraska remains at high risk of failing as the Cedar River continues to rise, according to a report by the NWS.
So far, 38 locations in five states across the Midwest have set new flood crests, said weather.com senior meteorologist Jon Erdman, noting that the flooding that is a result of recent heavy rains and snowmelt will continue through the weekend.
As of Friday evening, emergencies had been declared by the governors of three states: Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Just before 11 a.m. Thursday, the residents of Hornick in western Iowa were ordered to evacuate immediately because of a levee breach on the West Fork of the Little Sioux River.
“They gave us about 10 minutes, so you just grab the things you need the most,” Catie Newman told the Des Moines Register.
Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters went door-to-door warning the residents, the Sioux City Journal reported.
Newman, who is disaster response coordinator for the Iowa United Methodist Church and pastor of churches in Hornick and Salix, said tree branches and chunks of ice were floating across the plains around the town of about 200 people about 30 miles southeast of Sioux City. “Many of the fields are filled with water as far as the eye can see,” she said.
“Really all we can do right now is take care of one another,” Newman told the Register from the Salix church where she planned to stay Thursday night.
To the north of Hornick, the town of Moville was also inundated by floodwaters.
Flooding closed several highways, including the closure Thursday of Interstate 680 near Council Bluffs and a portion of Interstate 29, the Associated Press reported.
Several breached levees prompted evacuations in Missouri Valley, the AP also reported. Parts of the city were already underwater.
Five firefighters and two rescue divers were taken to hospital Friday with signs of hypothermia after two boats in which they were conducting rescues capsized in Dodge County near the Elkhorn River. One firefighter, who may have been in the frigid water for more than an hour, is in critical condition, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
Plattsmouth residents were told to restrict water use after the Plattsmouth Water Treatment Plant was inundated by rising floodwaters from the Missouri River. The plant was shut down and a water emergency declared, WOWT-TV reported.
On Friday, an evacuation order for one-third of the 24,000 residents in Norfolk was lifted; a day earlier, the city’s levee system “neared its top,” city officials said. One person was reported missing after their car was swept away, News Channel Nebraska reported.
Ten people were trapped on Channel Road in Norfolk, and rescue crews had to use a boat to reach one home surrounded by flood water, KETV reported. Floodwaters caused a bridge to collapse on Highway 13 in nearby Hadar, Nebraska, News Channel Nebraska also said.
Earlier Thursday, people were rescued from cabins along the Platte River in Yutan.
A hospital and nursing home were evacuated in Genoa after the Loup River overtopped an intake structure at the the Loup Power Division, News Channel Nebraska reported.
The Nebraska State Patrol was assisting with evacuations but had trouble accessing the community, News Channel Nebraska reported. The station also notes there are “no safe evacuation routes.”
Residents along the Platte River from Schuyler to Ashland were told to evacuate at 11 a.m., the Omaha World-Herald reported. The NWS warned that a surge of water was moving down the river because of an ice jam breakup.
“Anyone living near the Platte or in the floodplain needs to get out before it’s too late,” Dustin Wilcox, a spokesman for the Nebraska Association of Natural Resources Districts, told the World-Herald.
Highways 30 and 36 were closed by flooding in Washington and Douglas counties, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said. Water rescues were taking place in Arlington, Blair, Fort Calhoun and Kennard, the sheriff’s office said.
“Things are moving and changing at a rapid pace,” Douglas County Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson told reporters Friday. “We need you to follow instructions and evacuate when we say you need to evacuate.”
Floodwaters forced the closure of Interstate 29 Friday from Rockport to the Iowa state line.
Officials in Holt County in northwest Missouri recommended that people living in low-lying areas near the Missouri River evacuate. Dozens of roads were closed in that corner of the state because of flooding.
A woman who fell into the swift-moving Missouri River in Bridgeton Wednesday night had to cling to the roots of a tree until rescuers could pull her from the 40-degree water, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported. The woman, who was not identified, was walking her dog when she slipped off a bank and couldn’t climb back up. She was in the water for about 35 minutes, the report said.
“It was pretty miraculous she held on the way she did,” Assistant Chief Jim Usry of the Pattonville Fire Protection District said.
In southwestern Wisconsin, many roads in the town of Darlington were cut off by floodwaters on Friday. Homes and businesses took on water as the Pecatonica River rose to its highest level since 1993, according to WMTV.
“We’re all kind of nervous for what’s going to happen,” Susanne Chambers, owner of the Pizza Pantry, told WMTV. “It’s kind of a scary situation for us – we just don’t know what we have to do next.”
Some Brown County residents, including some of the 14,000 living in the village of Bellevue, were ordered to evacuate overnight as floodwaters along the East River continued to rise, according to NBC26.
An estimated 1,000 residents at a mobile home park in Jordan were urged to evacuate late Thursday after an ice jam on Sand Creek caused the creek to overflow its banks and onto the property, KSTP.com reported. The evacuation was voluntary, authorities told the station, noting that there is no drowning risk involved.