Ricketts signs disaster declaration to aid response to flooding across the state

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has signed a disaster declaration to aid the response to flooding and damage reports from across the state.

Areas affected by earlier storms are being impacted by rain, wind and hail from additional storms, state officials said Thursday. The declaration allows the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency to direct state resources to help communities and their response.

“Flooding has had a major impact on counties across northeast Nebraska,” Ricketts said. “This declaration allows state funds from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to help our communities in their response.”

NEMA is working with other state agencies in response to flooding and damage reports from local emergency managers.

NEMA Assistant Director Bryan Tuma said the agency will be helping local officials with their damage assessments. “NEMA strongly encourages local government and citizens to assess and document damages resulting from these storms,” he said.

Meanwhile, officials in Nebraska and Iowa said they are hopeful the worst flooding will have passed when the Missouri River crests at 29 feet tonight near Omaha.

“The latest trends have shown a decrease in the expected crest, and we’re hopeful that trend will continue. But we are prepared if things should change,” said Doug Reed, the emergency management director for Pottawattamie County. “Several agencies from the City of Council Bluffs and Pottawattamie County are actively engaged and coordinating preparedness efforts as we monitor the event.”

The National Weather Service said the Missouri River should crest at 7 p.m. It’s now predicted to drop to 27.9 feet on Saturday, 26.9 Sunday and 25.4 feet on Monday before falling below flood level Tuesday.

Reed said Gifford Road and the Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park are closed in the city. The Narrows River Park and Goosehaven Loop in rural Pottawattamie County are covered in water.

Other areas temporarily closed include the service road between Harrah’s casino parking lot and Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park as well Gifford Road. Also closed is a portion of the Council Bluffs trail system from Harrah’s parking garage to Ameristar Casino.

The trail system along the levee and the Council Bluffs entrance to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge remain open because flood waters are not expected to reach the levee. City flood and drainage gates are closed, and storm water pumps are operational.

In Omaha, N.P. Dodge Park and Freedom Park remain closed as city employees wait for flood waters to recede. Haworth Park remained closed in Bellevue as do some of the trails in Fontenelle Forest.

South of the metropolitan area, a flood warning remains in effect for Cass County. The river was at 30.3 feet, 4.3 feet above the flood stage for Plattsmouth on Thursday morning.

Minor flooding is occurring around the boat ramp, said Erv Portis, Plattsmouth’s city administrator. The city is preparing for sandbagging operations, if needed, around utilities, Portis said.

Emergency management directors in Nebraska’s Thurston and Dakota Counties said they are assessing the damage left by recent heavy rains. Tom Perez of Thurston County and Deanna Hagberg of Dakota County said they expect to request disaster relief from Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Shea Scollard, the emergency management director for Dixon County, said the paperwork for help fixing roads, bridges, culverts and other infrastructure already has been sent to Lincoln. Wayne County’s Nic Kemnitz said a local disaster declaration will be on the board of commissioners’ agenda for the July 3 meeting.