Repeat flooding prompts agencies to plan
Several agencies were represented at a meeting in Deshler May 12 as the city continues to seek guidance and relief from flooding.
The meeting came two days after the Little Blue Natural Resources District board meeting, where Deshler Mayor Naomi Grupe and Mary Miller, administrator for the city’s nursing and assisted living homes, voiced their concerns.
“We would just like to look to NRD if you could help us with suggestions on how to slow things down coming into town. We know you can’t control it, but any help would be most welcome,” Grupe told the board.
Miller informed the board of the damage toll from 2015’s flood and this year’s waterlogged event that forced her to evacuate residents once again.
“Thank goodness for the high school, you wonder if you have a place to go,” Miller said. “Our people can’t even go home.
The situation is heartbreaking, Miller added.
Little Blue General Manager Mike Onnen presented a slide show at the board meeting of the two flooding events showing Deshler’s ball diamond and park submerged.
Onnen also had an aerial shot of all the water and weather readings that explained just how fast the rain fell.
“These events are characterized as extremely rare,” Thayer County Emergency Manager Bill McPherson said. “We would not have expected this kind of event to occur again. Now, we have three rare events occur inside of a year.”
McPherson pointed to May 6, 2015, and April 27, 2015, but he said in June of 2015, another freak storm hit, pouring a little less rain than April’s storm at three to eight inches, as estimated by the National Weather Service.
Last year, 10 to 13 inches of rain fell in six hours and easily met the minute percentage of the 500 to 1000-year storm potential.
McPherson said the focus is to ensure the safety and protection of people.
“We need to create a situation where they don’t have to evacuate every time it rains,” he said.
Grupe said about 20 people were at the May 12 meeting that involved members of the Deshler City Council; Mitch Paine, the state coordinator for National Flood Insurance program through the Department of Natural Resources floodplain management; Mary Baker from Nebraska Emergency Management Agency; Chris Frye of Thayer County’s Zoning and Planning Commission; Jeff Hanson of JEO Consulting; Onnen; McPherson; and Grupe.
“People told about their experiences with the flood. The next hour was spent with representatives about funding and doing a study,” Grupe said.
She said since the city flooded again, she thinks the agencies are ready to plan.
That includes updating the floodplain maps and finding funding for the study.
Paine said they’re exploring alternatives to reduce flooding, such as elevating homes in the floodplain areas or possibly moving homes out of the flooding zones, however, Paine said they need to look at the properties one by one.
“We don’t really know what the solution is at this point. We’re trying to identify financial resources right now. Of course, we want to get going as fast as possible,” Paine said.
Two floodplain areas in Deshler are the park and fairgrounds.
Paine said parks are often built in floodplains because the water flows through without creating a lot of damage.
“You guys just keep getting hammered and that seems to happen more often with climate change effects,” Baker said. “We are seeing more extreme events coming more rapidly. We don’t get little rainfalls anymore.”