Malvern issues bottled water advisory

Malvern issues bottled water advisory
Water runs over the levee near Hamburg, Iowa on March 17, 2019. (World-Herald News Service)

A bottled water advisory has been issued for Malvern, Iowa, after one of its wells failed. The remaining well has a high nitrate level, which can be harmful to infants.

Water can be safely used for all household tasks except drinking and cooking.

Boiling intensifies nitrates, so is not a solution for drinking water. If additional information is needed, please contact 712-624-8282.

Meters available to test moisture levels in homes

Nebraska Extension offices are loaning moisture meters to homeowners so they can evaluate whether their homes have dried out sufficiently to avoid the growth of mold.

According to Nebraska Extension, it can take weeks or months for a house to dry to the point where repairs can be made. Otherwise, mold can form inside walls.

Moisture levels can’t be determined by appearance or the passage of time.

Extension offices have 150 meters available, and more are on the way. Contact your local extension office to borrow one.

For more information and flood-related resources from Extension offices, visit

Omaha sewage treatment plant could resume partial operations by April 20

Omaha’s crippled Papillion Creek sewage treatment plant could resume partial treatment of sewage as soon as April 20, the city announced late Monday afternoon.

By that date, the city hopes to be removing solids from sewage, one of the most important steps in reducing water pollution.

By May 1, the city hopes to resume disinfecting wastewater before it is discharged.

Since March 15, when floodwater overcame the levee protecting the sewage treatment plant, an estimated 65 million gallons a day of raw, untreated sewage has been flowing into the Missouri River. The plant typically treats and cleans about two-thirds of the Omaha metro area’s wastewater.

During the flood, parts of the plant were under 8 feet of water, according to the city. Pumps, motors and electrical components were all damaged, as was the road to the plant.

It wasn’t until March 29, when flooding had eased and the road became passable, that serious repairs could begin, the city said. That work is being done with electricity generated by a 2.3 megawatt diesel generator because the Omaha Public Power District has not yet been able to get the plant connected to the grid. The city is hopeful that electricity will be restored in about two weeks.

New FEMA deadline for public entities, some nonprofits

Local governments, other public entities and certain nonprofit organizations will get an extra month to apply for disaster assistance.

On Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that it has extended the deadline for applications for public assistance grants. The new deadline is May 20.

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency asked for the extension because of the magnitude of the disaster.

The same deadline, May 20, also applies to individual citizens and businesses seeking aid.

Also on Monday, federal officials clarified earlier news about the number of counties eligible for disaster assistance.

All 65 counties that have received a federal disaster declaration remain eligible for disaster assistance, according to FEMA. There’s been no reduction. Of the 65, 50 counties have recently become eligible for additional assistance. The extra aid is based on information gleaned from damage assessments.

Food pantries set up across state, including in La Vista

Mobile food pantries have been set up across Nebraska.

The Food Bank for the Heartland is partnering with Messiah Lutheran Church to host a free pantry Saturday in La Vista from 8:15 to 11 a.m.

The mobile pantry will be stationed at Harrison Street Baptist Church at 8015 Harrison St.

About 30,000 pounds of food will be available, from nonperishable products and bottled water to produce such as fresh carrots, apples, watermelons and onions. Disaster pantry packs — 15-pound prepacked boxes — will also be available.

If you plan to come, bring boxes or bags for your food. Volunteers will be on hand, and no identification is required.

Other pantries are scheduled throughout Nebraska the rest of the month. For a list, visit and click on Mobile Pantries under the Get Food header. Donations can be made on the website, too.

‘Our biggest problem is the weather’: Flood threat remains elevated in Nebraska and Iowa

Local and global conditions are working together to contribute to an increased, ongoing risk of rainier-than-normal weather this spring, a team of National Weather Service personnel said.

That’s not what flooded-out communities want to hear.

“It’s wet up here, the roads are muddy. People are cleaning up and trying to get some semblance of order — and our biggest problem is the weather,” said Laura Hintz, emergency manager for Knox County, Nebraska, which sits at the junction of the Niobrara and Missouri Rivers.

From an El Niño weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean to the saturated landscape in Nebraska and Iowa, varied forces are injecting moisture into the air, boosting the chances of rain, the meteorologists and hydrologists said in a conference call Thursday.

For now, the risk is more localized and episodic, as opposed to widespread and devastating, they said. As always, with weather, there can be surprises, so an increased chance of rainy weather doesn’t guarantee it will happen.

“We don’t expect widespread, long-term flooding, per se, but episodic, moderate-level flooding is likely in southern Iowa, southeast Nebraska and across Missouri … through the next three months,” said Doug Kluck, climate services director for the central region of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “This is why it’s so important to stay tuned to local forecasts.”

Asked about the potential for a repeat of the Great Flood of 1993, when spring and early summer rains fueled historic flooding in Iowa and on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, Kluck provided a qualified answer.

“There’s nothing indicating that’s going to happen this year,” he said. “It’s just very, very wet, we’re all saying. So any major perturbation that causes major rainfall, or even normal rainfall, in some cases will lead to flooding. Whether we’ll have major river flooding? That’s hard for us to say.”

In the near term, forecasters say three to four storm systems are likely to move across the central United States over the next two weeks, bringing, in total, higher-than-normal rainfall chances.

Where those storms hit will be key.

At least one system is expected to move across the southern United States, while another is forecast to cross the central part of the country. The good news, Kluck said, is that computer modeling indicates that the storms are likely to move along rather than stall out and dump several inches of water over a large area.

Bryan Tuma, assistant director of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, said people should listen to local emergency officials, monitor forecasts and evaluate their own vulnerability — and consider flood insurance.

In Iowa, the state is working with local governments to restock supplies of sandbags and the much larger flood barriers.

Based on the National Weather Service flood briefing, other interviews and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, here are some of the factors influencing the flood risk this spring to early summer:

A cyclic climate pattern, these warmer-than-normal waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean inject massive amounts of moisture into the atmosphere, which boosts the likelihood of stormy weather across the southern United States. Sometimes, that rainy pattern drifts farther north across Nebraska.

Seasonal rains

April through June is the wettest time of the year, on average, so even if rainfall totals are normal, some flooding is likely.

Saturated soils

As spring turns into summer and plants start growing, they will pull moisture from the soil and return it to the atmosphere. This phenomenon, plus general evaporation, can “recycle” the moisture into rain, Kluck said. Additionally, soils are so saturated, the ground isn’t yet able to absorb significant rainfall, boosting the chances of flooding.

River reservoir levels

Record runoff in March, fed by rain and an abrupt melting of the Plains snowpack, caused reservoir levels to jump behind the massive dams in the Dakotas and Montana.

Global warming

Earth has become wetter as it has gotten warmer, so there is more moisture in the atmosphere to fuel drenching rains. Since 1958, there has been a 30% to 40% increase in unusually heavy rains in the northern Great Plains and Midwest, which includes Nebraska and Iowa, according to the National Climate Assessment.

Additionally, Nebraska has seen a marked increase in April rains over the past 30 years, and Iowa has seen an increase in spring rains, climatologists say. Heavier rains and flooding are one of the best-understood consequences of climate change.