Representatives of County Entities Involved with Various Efforts in Dealing with Flooding Issues
Communication and documentation are the major issues in dealing with the 2011 Missouri River flooding, representatives of various agencies were told Wednesday, July 6, at an emergency Nemaha County Commissioners meeting.
Commissioner Dennis Wittmann said that Nemaha County officials need to respond to the needs of affected agencies. Representatives of affected agencies need to contact Wittmann or Renee Critser, Nemaha County Emergency Management Agency Director. Officials will get organized as quickly as possible.
Other issues in dealing with the flooding, Critser said, included safety and housing for displaced families and individuals.
More than 30 representatives of various agencies attended.
Representative of Sen. Johanns’ Reports
Recordkeeping is extremely important in documenting expenses associated with a disaster such as the flooding, said Darrell Podany. Podany is constituent services representative from the Lincoln office of U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns.
Podany said that Johanns has been up and down the Missouri River, visiting communities from Niobrara in the northeast to Rulo in the southeast. He said that Johanns has met with representatives of federal agencies to track the situation and help expedite requests for assistance. The senator has also been in contact with representatives of county emergency management agencies.
It is anticipated that a disaster declaration request will be submitted to President Obama, Podany said. At that time, he said that representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be more active, involved with assistance to public infrastructure and emergency assistance. Johanns has met with FEMA officials, Podany said.
Johanns has worked with representatives of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and was assured that there were no public safety issues with flooding around nuclear power plants, he said.
Documentation, Contributions Praised
Critser said that everything has been great so far as documentation involved with the flooding.
She said that contributions to officials monitoring the flooding were appreciated.
Officials are watching sandboils and dry cracks at the levee north of Peru, she said. The ground is starting to crack because it is dry, she said. If sandboils are farther out, there is less concern, Critser said.
The levee is being monitored and animal holes have been filled in, she said. There are constant daily checks, Critser said.
Nebraska National Guard personnel have monitored the situation 24 hours a day, relieving local levee district officials, she said. Sandboils, leaks and holes that would cause the levee to fail have been monitored. Officials are monitoring the situation 18 hours daily with periodic nighttime checks, she said.
As of Friday, July 1, American Red Cross officials were no longer in Peru, Critser said.
Richard Vlach, assistant emergency management director, said that the Nebraska National Guard was doing an excellent job in monitoring the situation.
Vlach said that Peru State College officials have been hospitable to Guard members; community members have been generous in contributions, such as water and food and that the Guard members have been accepted well in the community.
“They’re doing a responsible job. The community recognizes it. It has acted accordingly,” Vlach said.
Critser said that a preliminary damage assessment meeting was scheduled for the afternoon of July 6.
Documentation of such items as manhours, vehicle use and rock tonnage will be needed, she said.
Cooper Nuclear Station
Safety is the primary consideration at Cooper Nuclear Station south of Brownville, said David Montgomery, Emergency Preparedness Manager with Nebraska Public Power District.
Officials make sure that cooling and electrical power are available, Montgomery said.
“We have contact with emergency management on both sides of the Missouri River. Our sirens continue to function. We have daily contact with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” he said.
Montgomery said that 150 Cooper employees live on the east side of the Missouri River. Some of those affected have stayed at Peru State College, while others are telecommuting, renting in Auburn or staying with friends, he said.
Officials have contacted officials of municipalities from Hiawatha, Kan. to Nebraska City in regards to housing options, Montgomery said. Options in Auburn and Falls City are being sought. Housing will be needed after Sunday, July 31, for employees staying at Peru State College, he said.
Officials are working with levee sponsors and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain the levy. Officials continue to monitor the levy and address boils as they are identified, Montgomery said.
NPPD officials have power in reserve in the event of a shutdown at Cooper, he said.
“We will provide for the needs of our customers,” Montgomery said.
City of Peru
Cindy Moran, city clerk, said that Peru officials believed that they have done all they can to the best of their ability to protect the city’s water supply.
Moran said that the city water has been tested more often to prevent contamination. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials have assisted with recommendations to protect the city’s infrastructure, she said.
Peru State College
College officials will become more concerned about the situation as the Monday, Aug. 22, start of fall semester classes nears, said Micki Willis, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs.
Willis said that most students would not return to campus until Saturday, Aug. 20. The exceptions include football and volleyball players, who start fall practice the week before; residence life representatives and incoming freshmen moving in, she said. There is a large commuting population to the college. Some students live at surrounding rental properties, Willis said.
She said that college officials need to reassure students that the college will be open, will have water and will be ready for the fall semester.
College officials are keeping in contact with Peru city officials, Willis said. There will be an extensive need for water on campus, she said. College officials are seeking sources for trucking in potable water to continue dining services should the need arise, Willis said. Anyone with any sources of water is asked to please contact college officials.
Also, academic contingency plans are being worked on, Willis said.
While housing facilities will be made available for Nebraska National Guard and American Red Cross representatives, college officials will need to prepare for the fall semester as the start of classes nears, she said.
Health, Safety Issues
Lisa Bloss, assistant director and emergency response coordinator with Southeast District Health Department, said she has worked with officials of emergency management agencies and the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure safe water operation. Her efforts were praised by representatives of attending entities.
“As long as the water systems stay up, we’ll weather this well,” Bloss said.
SEDHD officials try to provide resources as needed, give tetanus shots as required and check on individuals who come into contact with such creatures as insects and snakes, she said.
Kermit Moore, chief operating officer at Nemaha County Hospital, said hospital officials are prepared to provide services that they can to supplement SEDHD efforts.
Kay Oestmann, SEDHD director, said department staff have worked with Region V officials. Anyone who has behavioral health needs or who needs support was asked to contact Critser. Anyone knowing individuals in need is asked to contact the health department.
“This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. A lot of us need someone to talk to,” Oestmann said.
Auburn Chamber, Other Municipalities
Rene’ Danley, officer manager, Auburn Chamber of Commerce, said retailers and businesses have been “awesome” in contributions towards those working with the efforts.
She said she was not sure whether retail sales have decreased, but that the situation may have an affect on businesses later.
Danley said that Nebraska National Guard members will be in the area at least through July 31 and possibly longer. Guard members have requested information on Auburn businesses, she said.
Martin Hayes, Brownville village board chairman, reported attendance at entertainment attractions in Brownville has decreased. Hayes said that a lot of patrons of the Brownville Village Theatre come from Missouri.
Dave Hunter, Auburn Board of Public Works general manager, said no facilities have been impacted but if anyone needed assistance, the BPW was available.
Bob Hutton, Nemaha County Board of Commissioners chairman, said he has been called to help provide officials of Brownville, Nemaha and Peru with dirt, rock and sand.
“I’m thankful that I can help them. If you need any more help, please let me know,” Hutton said.
Sheriff Brent Lottman said that his officers have been asked directions on how to get around; and have dealt with people trespassing on bridges and levees, and individuals driving on closed roads.
Kevin Reiman, Auburn Public Schools superintendent, said school officials are ready to help if needed and will help children of displaced families. Bus routes will be considered as school gets closer to the Thursday, Aug. 18, start of classes, Reiman said.
Pastor Jonathan Rathjen of Trinity Lutheran Church, Auburn, said that the Nemaha County Ministerial Association stands by ready to help in any way possible.
Clergy of county churches are providing support as needed, and there is concern about displaced families, Rathjen said.
Joni Johnson of the Nemaha County Farm Service Agency office said that agency officials are monitoring the issue closely with Critser and Stephen Kennedy of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Some crop damage was reported. Reports were sent to state officials. Johnson said that a Farmers Crisis Hotline was available.