Nearly eight million people were under flood warnings in the Midwest on Tuesday March 12, after a “bomb cyclone” had blown its way through. Flood waters were especially widespread in Nebraska, with Gov. Pete Ricketts saying it was the “most widespread disaster we have had in our state’s history.” (cnn.com)
Snowfall amounted to 12-17 inches in places such as Scottsbluff and Chadron, and varying rainfall totals of 2.27-4 inches across the state. This precipitation fell on frozen ground, and even more rain fell after the initial blizzard, melting the snow. With the ground being too frozen to absorb the water, it flowed into rivers and low areas. Thus, the flooding ensued.
One town, Peru, Nebraska in Nemaha County, encountered the flood waters nearly reaching rooftops at the water treatment plant and well house. With access cut off to the facility because of the flooding, the nearby city of Auburn is trucking in water with the use of three semi-trucks normally used to deliver dairy products.
With the compromised water system and continued flooding expected, bottled water is being distributed to several rural areas in Nebraska.
Ken Swanson with Auburn Utilities said, “We are keeping up but the college is set to reopen and that presents a challenge. The search is on to find a portable treatment facility.”
The town of Peru not only had its population of just less than 1,000 to think of, but also Peru State College which has nearly 2,500 students enrolled. Peru State College has suspended classes until further notice. (Lincoln Journal Star)
Alongside Swanson was Randy Hellbusch, Circuit Rider with Nebraska Rural Water Association, to help assist and assess the emergency situation.
“There isn’t a lot more to do now than monitor the situation. We are focused on keeping the system pressurized and there is a dire need to find a portable water treatment facility,” said Hellbusch.
After a few days of searching, Nebraska Rural Water Association was instrumental in locating a portable water treatment facility for the city.
“Nebraska Rural Water Association is currently assisting with constant monitoring and sampling until the treatment facility arrives and is functioning,” Hellbusch informed.
The flooding is so high that Hellbusch said he couldn’t even get close enough to take a picture of the water treatment facility or well house. He will be back on-site as soon as the flooding starts to recede to help with the cleanup and operations such as flushing and chlorinating the system.
“We have our hands tied until the water recedes, which really makes it tough,” says Hellbusch.
Something truly interesting about this situation is a home that is quite close to the well house and treatment facility was built in 1899, and this is the very first time the home has ever flooded.
With the flooding in Nebraska being so widespread, multiple Circuit Riders and Wastewater Technicians from Nebraska Rural Water Association are on the job assisting other areas and systems that have been affected by the flooding.