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School won't be in session until at least “two to three more days” in Antelope County thanks to dangerous rural road conditions.
Local school administrators met with emergency management officials Sunday afternoon at the Antelope County Law Enforcement Center to discuss the rural roads situation. Antelope County Emergency Manager Bob Moore advised school administrators “to stand down with opening up and give us at least until Wednesday.”
Neligh-Oakdale Superintendent Scott Gregory asked for clarification, "You're saying no school Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and to assess possibly a Thursday start."
County Road Superintendent Casey Dittrich said that is the county's recommendation, which concurred with what was said earlier by those in attendance, including Mike Mortensen, deputy director of Antelope County Emergency Management, and Commissioner Charlie Henery.
School officials from Clearwater, Orchard, Neligh-Oakdale, St. Boniface/Pope John, Elgin and Elkhorn Valley were all in attendance, as was Neligh Postmaster Nick Ramold. Multiple law enforcement from the Antelope County Sheriff's Department and Neligh Police Department were also present.
All of the administrators said they had no issues with calling off school until the roads were deemed safe.
Anyone with questions regarding school closures should contact their respective superintendent, not the county road superintendent, who is handling the road situation.
Antelope County Emergency Manager Bob Moore said the Elkhorn River ice jam located east of the Singing Bridge and 519 Bridge between Clearwater and Neligh has broken apart and water has reached its cresting point in Clearwater.
"There was an 18-inch water surge that followed the jam," Moore said Saturday afternoon while monitoring the Highway 275 bridge between Neligh and Oakdale. "We can see ice chunks going through occasionally and the river has risen a bit, but it looks like the jam has made it safely through."
Moore said Clearwater and other places downstream along the river will see water receding soon.
There's good news and bad news for Antelope County residents, according to Antelope County Emergency Manager Bob Moore.
The Elkhorn River ice jam between Clearwater and Neligh has broken apart, but the bad news is the rural roads are still dangerous and the travel ban remains in place.
The roads remain a concern, though. Moore commended the Antelope County workers for their effort and long hours as they assess the roads and try to make them safe again. But at this time, Moore said, rural roads have not been deemed safe.
"There's still water over a lot of roads," Moore said. "We have roads with 18 feet craters; roads with bridge approaches gone. County roads are still not safe to be traveled at this time."
A Nebraska Department of Transportation worker was injured Friday afternoon after an oncoming vehicle hydroplaned on Highway 14 about 6 1/2 miles north of Neligh.
According to Ray Branstiter, NDOT District 3 operations and maintenance manager, a NDOT worker was flagging traffic where flood water was over Highway 14 when a northbound pickup hydroplaned. Branstiter said the worker tried to get into the NDOT pickup next to him for safety as the vehicle hydroplaned toward him. The oncoming pickup struck the NDOT vehicle and injured the worker.
"Our workers are out there trying to protect the public. That's our job," Branstiter said. "But we need the public to please be aware of our workers and to not put them at greater risk."
Branstiter said this was the second worker injured this year by other drivers.
Branstiter said his worker was transported by Neligh Rescue to Antelope Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. His name has not been released at this time.
The driver of the vehicle that struck the NDOT pickup has also not been identified. She was not transported by ambulance.
The accident remains under investigation. The Neligh Fire Department, Antelope County Sheriff's Department, Neligh Police Department and Neligh Rescue all responded.
An ice jam on the Elkhorn River between Clearwater and Neligh still has water backed up. Although the river is going down throughout Antelope County, it's moving slowly through the ice between Clearwater and the jam.
This jam is located east of the 519 Bridge (south of the Royal Road) and the Singing Bridge. Ice is collecting where the old railroad bridge is broken. This bridge has not been in use for years.
Water remains over Highway 275 in several places with one lane of traffic as cars drive through. Residents are asked not to travel on rural roads until the county can assess them. The Oakdale cut across is currently closed due to structural deficiencies.
All highways across Antelope County are open, but drivers will encounter one-lane traffic in places due to water. According to Antelope County Sheriff Bob Moore, there are workers on site flagging traffic for safety.
Moore said rural travel is still not advised at this time throughout the county with not timeline for when it will be lifted.
"We still are asking that there be no travel on the rural roads," Moore said. "Many of the roads have washouts that may not be visible until it's too late. People need to stay off the roads until we have assessed them."
Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper Nuclear Station, an electric power plant in southeast Nebraska, declared a “Notification of Unusual Event” at 5:46 a.m. Friday, when the Missouri River reached 899.05 feet at the plant. The declaration was anticipated for several days by the power plant’s operators, who closely tracked the river’s steady increase in elevation due to the combination of snow melt, frozen ground, heavy rain conditions in Nebraska , and releases of water from upstream reservoirs in South Dakota.
The notification was made as part of a safety and emergency preparedness plan the station follows when flooding conditions are in effect. The plan’s procedures dictate when the Missouri River’s water level reaches 42.5 feet, or greater than 899 mean sea level, a notification of unusual event is declared. Plant personnel regularly monitor the river levels.
There is no threat to plant employees or to the public; the plant continues to operate safely. Appropriate local, county, state, and federal agencies were also notified.
Site personnel had been monitoring the river’s water levels as part of normal operations and began additional preparations in anticipation of higher volumes of water earlier in the week. Personnel have been proactive in preparing the station for flood conditions by filling sandbags that were placed along the river levee and procuring materials and supplies for flood protection.
Should the river’s level increase to 900 feet above sea level, plant personnel will also barricade internal doorways as another layer of protection for facility equipment. If the river’s level increases to 45 feet or 901.5 feet above sea level, plant operators would take the station offline as a protective safety measure. The plant was built at 903 feet above sea level, which is 13 feet above natural grade.
A Notification of Unusual Event is the lowest and least serious of four emergency classifications established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for nuclear power plants. If placed on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being the least serious level of an emergency and 4 being the most serious level of an emergency, a “Notification of Unusual Event” would equal a 1.
Cooper Nuclear Station is located three miles southeast of Brownville, Nebraska, near the Missouri River. It is owned and operated by the Nebraska Public Power District, with headquarters in Columbus, Nebraska.
Antelope County remains at a stand still Thursday thanks to massive flooding. Schools are closed, semis are parked and the Neligh fire hall has become a shelter for about three dozen people who are stranded.
Sheriff Bob Moore, who serves as the Antelope County Emergency Manager, was one of several county officials who met Thursday morning at the courthouse to discuss the situation. Deputy Emergency Manager Mike Mortensen, county commissioners, fire chiefs and council members from the communities also attended.
Moore said everyone is pressing for a date as to when travel will be allowed again, but he said until water recedes, roads cannot be assessed and travel will not be allowed.
“When are we going to get Antelope County up and running? We do not have a date,” Moore said. “Our number one priority right now is safety and keeping people off the roads. We have water over the road in many places. The highways are wet and slick from the freeze, so if a vehicle slides into the ditch, we have the potential for drownings. People need to stay home.”
Moore said Antelope County is continuing its emergency declaration of no travel, which includes no postal service and no school. He said no schools will be in session on Friday in the county due to the emergency situation.
“Patience is going to be Antelope County’s greatest virtue right now because of so many unknowns,” Moore said. “We have culvert washed out, bridges gone, roads gone. This will not get fixed overnight. We are talking about days and maybe weeks to get travel re-established on certain routes in the county. To put a time or date on when schools or the postal service can be moving again, that’s something we simply cannot do right now.”
Moore said Highway 275 between Neligh and Oakdale remains a concern. The ice jam moved from the west side of the Elkhorn River to the east side, which is now backing water up over the highway around Spud’s Trucking. Workers spent nearly 4 hours on the bridge Wednesday night using an excavator to move ice chucks to keep the river flowing.
While most of respected the local and state emergency declaration, not all have. Much of Thursday’s meeting was spent discussing how rescues would be coordinated should more occur. Moore said the Sheriff’s Office will handle all calls and send the proper responders to the emergency situations.
“None of the three water rescues we had should have happened,” Moore said. “There have been numerous water rescues throughout Northeast Nebraska with this flood from people who did not comply with state and county declarations.”
Moore said all three rescues in Antelope County were successful. The first involved minors in Riverside Park, the second was a household in Oakdale and the third was a car overcome by water overnight between Tilden and Oakdale.
The travel ban left dozens of people stranded in Neligh. Moore said the Neligh Fire Department stepped up to shelter nearly 40 people. During Thursday’s meeting, the county authorized $10,000 for expenses ensued and to shelter displaced individuals for another night.
“I can’t thank the Neligh Fire Department enough for the shelter,” Moore said. “They have went above and beyond to help with the emergency situation, the rescues and the shelter.”
Moore said it’s been nine years since the county experienced this type of flooding, which in 2010 was called a 100-year flood. Although difficult to compare the two situations, Moore said officials are more knowledgable with this emergency having gone through the 2010 flood.
“We are way more prepared than we were then,” said Moore, who was the police chief in Elgin at that time. “We didn’t have (Road Superintendent) Casey Dittrich and only had supervisors looking at road damage. Casey has been an asset in this process by documenting everything from the start. As incident commander, I’ve been through all of the classes, and so has my deputy Mike Mortensen. We are documenting everything and more prepared for this emergency situation.”
Documentation was one of the biggest reasons for Thursday’s meeting, Moore said, which was primarily informational on what to do for NEMA and possibly FEMA, if President Trump signs a federal order. Moore said the county wants to have all of its paperwork in order and everything recorded with expenditures and man hours listed for the entire flood process.
Moore said it’s taken a lot of teamwork from first responders, the county, state and many other organizations. However, much more work remains. On Friday, if the water has begun to recede, they plan to begin assessing roads.
“Road assessment will be the next priority, but that can’t begin until tomorrow,” Moore said. “This is a bigger monster than Antelope County resources have. It will take other private contractors coming in to help re-establish the services in this county, especially the roads.”