With more rain in the forecast, officials are keeping an eye on a swollen Missouri River

With more rain in the forecast, officials are keeping an eye on a swollen Missouri River
World-Herald News Service

Officials on both sides of the Missouri River are keeping one eye on the rising water and the other on the weekend weather forecast.

More rain is expected and with it could come more flooding.

In Washington County, barriers and traffic signs are being pre-positioned in case flooding worsens, said Bill Pook, Region 3 emergency manager.

Becky Kern, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said a storm system coming through this weekend is expected to bring excessive rain and severe weather. What’s not known, she said, is whether the storms will dump their heaviest rains over the Missouri or Mississippi River basins.

What appears clear is that rain is expected north of the metro area on Friday and then in the metro area on Saturday, she said.

The Missouri River is expected to crest Thursday morning from this week’s runoff, but another crest is likely after this weekend’s rains, Kern said. It’s too early to forecast how high that crest will be, she said.

Predicting how long the Missouri River will stay above the 25-foot flood stage is difficult, said Hallie Dusselier, a meteorologist with the weather service office in Valley, because it’s hard to know the condition of its many tributaries.

“It’s very variable,” she said, “because it has a lot to do with other rivers and how much rain is falling farther north.”

Numerous recreation areas and parks along the Missouri River have closed, including those in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area. N.P. Dodge Park, Freedom Park, Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park and Haworth Park already have closed due to flooding, while some trails in Fontenelle Park also are underwater.

Larry Foster, parks director for Council Bluffs, said Hanafan Park should be able to handle the flooding.

“We’re fortunate to have designed the park anticipating occasional flooding and minimizing some of the effects,” Foster said. “It’s designed so that the floodwater will rise like in a bathtub with no current. Then we don’t have big areas of erosion. And once the water goes down, we’ll get the park back in shape as soon as possible.”

In northeast Nebraska and northwest Iowa, flooding along the Missouri River’s tributaries has caused significant headaches. Dozens of homes have flooded, along with numerous roads.

In Platte County, there was extensive damage to county roads, some bridges and culverts, said Tim Hofbauer, emergency manager. Some areas got 6 inches of rain earlier this week, he said.

“The water is pretty much subsiding and we are just now discovering some of the damage that we have,” he said.

Several communities sandbagged or erected flood walls to keep out rising water, including Platte Center and Scribner, Hofbauer and Pook said.

Additionally, there were voluntary evacuations from cabins along the Missouri River, as well as from rural Scribner and the community of Nickerson on the Elkhorn River, Pook said.

In Scribner, water rose about four feet against the floodgate, Pook said.

The community of Rogers lucked out. It had been threatened by flooding after a private levee failed, said Michelle Evert, deputy emergency manager for Colfax County. Water levels on Shell Creek started dropping just about the time the floodwater reached town, she said.

About 15 roads remained closed in Colfax County on Wednesday, about half of what had been closed, Evert said.

In rain-ravaged Thurston County, Logan Creek has returned to a “manageable level,” said Tom Perez, the emergency management director. Highways are reopening, he said midday Wednesday, but roads and fields have large amounts of debris.

Perez estimated that 30 homes throughout Thurston County were flooded. Many farm fields, he said, are “nothing but a big pile of mud.” The emergency management team is starting to reach out to farmers, he said, to find out how much damage they sustained.

“We’re watching the weather for this weekend, too,” Perez said. “It ain’t looking pretty. I’m usually glad to see the rain, but not now. We’ve had too much.”

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