For many people, 2019 is a year that they would like to forget.
Unfortunately, 2019 may mostly be remembered for natural disasters that struck Nebraska. Those disasters caused devastation and heartache throughout the state.
And that leads to The Grand Island Independent’s top story of 2019:
1.) Historic flooding hits Nebraska
Nebraska was experiencing a colder than usual March with a lot of snow on the ground. Then on March 14, everything changed.
That was when a “bomb cyclone” hit the state. It left a blizzard in the west and torrential rain in the rest of the state.
A warm-up followed and all the rain and melting snow on top of frozen ground was too much for the rivers and streams to handle. Rivers throughout the central and eastern parts of the state overflowed. In addition, ice chunks went streaming down rivers, leaving destruction behind.
In Central Nebraska, North Loup and Dannebrog got inundated. The main street of Dannebrog became a river.
Hit next was Gibbon and then Wood River. Nance County communities of St. Edward and Cedar Rapids became lakes.
It was the same story in northern and eastern Nebraska. Roads, bridges, farms, ranches, homes and towns received extensive damage. It will go down as Nebraska’s worst natural disaster.
2.) Grand Island Veterans Home closes
Ever since 2013, Grand Island knew this dreaded day was coming. On Jan. 16, 2019, it happened.
Veterans were taken out of the Grand Island Veterans Home, which had existed for 132 years, and moved to the new Central Nebraska Veterans Home in Kearney.
It was the end of an era in Grand Island.
Later in the year, a redevelopment proposal from a group called White Lotus was put forward to develop the former veterans home buildings into veteran housing, housing for college students and interns, and assisted-living units.
Perhaps 2019 was also the start of a new era for the property.
3.) State Fair struggles
March’s bomb cyclone wasn’t the only big weather event. Grand Island had its second-wettest month ever in August. That prevented parking in the Nebraska State Fair’s grass lots and caused fair officials to scramble to expand its shuttle system.
That led to a drop in attendance and in revenue. In order to make ends meet, the fair eliminated 10 positions in November as it sought to reduce its expenses.
Overall, the State Fair’s 150th year was one of its biggest struggles ever.
4.) New Jefferson and Stolley Park elementary schools open
The first day of school for the 2019-2020 school year was a happy time for students at Jefferson and Stolley Park elementary schools.
After two years of going to other school buildings, Jefferson and Stolley Park students were finally able to walk through the doors of their brand new schools.
The completion of Jefferson and Stolley Park brought to an end the $69.9 million of school building projects approved by Grand Island voters in 2014.
5.) David Sackschewsky case
In one of the most bizarre turns of fortune seen in Grand Island, David Sackschewsky went from being a beloved and successful vocal music teacher at Northwest High School to being a criminal.
Sackschewsky was convicted of stealing money from the 14 Karat Gold Show Choir Booster Club and sentenced to 90 days in jail and ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution.
6.) The Academies of Grand Island Senior High go into full swing
After several years of planning, the academy system at Grand Island Senior High was fully implemented in 2019. GISH students are each now a part of one of the following academies: Freshman Exploration; Education, Law and Public Safety; Business and Communication; Medical Sciences; Technical Sciences; and Engineering and Technology.
2019 signaled a new day in education in Grand Island.
7.) Nebraska Danger put up for sale
In July, Nebraska Danger owner Charlie Bosselman announced Bosselman Enterprises is looking to sell the Indoor Football League franchise. The Danger has been a winter/spring attraction in Grand Island since 2011.
8.) Amick Acres flooding/wind storm
The Nebraska State Fair wasn’t the only thing impacted by wacky weather in August. All that rain — 4.5 inches fell one night — caused flooding at Amick Acres. Hall County took steps to drain and divert the water and also discussed future measures to take to prevent and alleviate flooding.
Also in August, Grand Island was hit by a ferocious wind storm, packing gusts up to 87 mph, that left trees and limbs down throughout the city. An estimated 10% of the trees in the city were damaged or destroyed.
9.) Grand Island bans vaping in public places
Grand Island was ahead of the movement in the state and nation in taking steps against vaping. In August, the Grand Island City Council unanimously approved a ban. A number of other cities in Nebraska followed Grand Island’s example and also instituted vaping bans.
10.) Zabuni Specialty Coffee opens
Grand Island took on an international flavor in November. Can you smell the Kenyan coffee?
Zabuni will market Kenya coffee beans to roasters throughout the country — and it will do it from right here in Grand Island. It’s a new business that could really flourish and diversify the Grand Island economy.