KEARNEY — Thursday, Emergency Manager Darrin Lewis said his largest worries centered around flooding in Pleasanton, Ravenna and Gibbon. Today, Shelton was added to the list.
“It’s day three,” Lewis said from the emergency management bunker under the Buffalo County Courthouse. Lewis has been coordinating emergency responders since Wednesday when heavy rainfall triggered the weather emergency that has caused road washouts, water rescues and voluntary evacuations on the north sides of Gibbon and Shelton and the south side of Pleasanton.
The South Loup River overflowed its banks at Pleasanton and Ravenna, and the Wood River was causing concerns for Gibbon, Shelton and the town of Wood River.
“There is water going continuously over U.S. Highway 30 between Shelton and Gibbon. They expect that to increase throughout the day,” Lewis said. “We’re looking at flood records for the Wood River and Gibbon areas. We’re expecting the Wood River to crest sometime today.”
Sign up for Kearney Hub daily news updates
Want to read more local content like this? Subscribe to the Kearney Hub's daily headlines newsletter.
A house between Gibbon and Shelton was surrounded by water Thursday, but rescuers walked a flat-bottom boat to the house and evacuated the occupants, Lewis said.
Creeks and smaller streams such as the South Loup and Wood rivers were quick to fill with runoff and snow-melt on Wednesday and Thursday, but so far there haven’t been flooding problems associated with the Platte River.
“I haven’t heard that we’re having any issues along the Platte, but we’re expecting it to rise to flood stage over the next several days,” Lewis said. “Right now we’re just below action stage at Kearney. We’re at about 5.8 feet. We see minor flooding at 7 feet on the Platte. It may crest at 6 feet and recede after that, so the Platte may not cause us any problems.”
Fire halls and churches have served as temporary shelters for people who evacuated their homes in Pleasanton, Shelton and Gibbon, Lewis said.
He reported some flooding near Elm Creek in western Buffalo County. “Turkey Creek is out of its banks at Elm Creek. I’m expecting the guys to go out and check the situation today. We expect the tributaries to go down fairly quickly.”
Amherst is OK, Lewis said. “The Wood River in that area has stayed within its banks.”
The only way in or out of Ravenna is from the north, according to Mayor Peg Dethlefs.
Flooding continues on the South Loup River and Mud Creek. When asked if those conditions have started to subside, Dethlefs said, “very little.”
The viaduct is blocked on the north end and Highway 2 remains closed from Grand Island to almost Custer County, she said.
Within Ravenna, West Pine Street is flooded, which is another way into the city, and water also is over the road on East Genoa Street. Both are closed.
When asked about in-town flooding, Dethlefs said there has been water in basements along Piedmont Street. She added that local businesses are open.
Dethlefs said there is access to her city by taking Highway 10 to Hazard, crossing Highway 2, and then taking Highway 68 east and then south into Ravenna.
“It’s the only way in or out,” she said.
Lewis said the past three days have been an ordeal for many Buffalo County residents, but he said he’s impressed by the response to adversity.
Also, people seem to be following what their fire chiefs and first responders are telling them, he said. “They don’t want to put the lives of first responders at risk. It makes me very proud of the people in our communities. It really does.”
Buffalo County Sheriff Neil Miller has stressed the motto: “Turn around, don’t drown.”
Lewis said he wasn’t worried that today’s temperatures in the 50s might trigger a rapid thaw and more flooding. “I’m looking forward to warmer weather. Maybe if we can get some of this frost out of the ground the water will soak in.”