Flood alerts lifted but fears remain near Platte River ice jam

Published: Jan. 31, 2021 at 10:06 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The flood alerts are lifted, but the fear is still very much alive in parts of Dodge County after an ice jam along the Platte River threatened homes on the southwest edge of Fremont on Saturday.

“The first thing we think about is how quickly can we get out,” said Stacy Heatherly, who lives near the Platte River. “And then the second thing is you know what’s going to happen to our property because it was completely devastated.”

The ice jam forcing the Platte River to forge a new path, over the banks, towards nearby homes.

“It’s just terrifying to hear that noise and see that water come in so fast,” said Heatherly.

And while the threat is real, it’s not uncommon. “Just about every season we see ice jams along the Platte,” “In many spots along the Platte River it’s very shallow,” said Mallory Schnell, Meteorologist, WOWT. “I know a lot of people want to compare this to spring of 2019, which is understandable because that was such a catastrophic event, but that was a perfect storm.”

A perfect storm, not likely to happen again anytime soon.

“We had one to two feet of snow on the ground, the ground the frozen, so when that snow rapidly melted it had nowhere to go, we had one to three inches on top of that,” said Schnell, noting this spring is likely to paint a much different picture. “2020 was a very dry year for us; we’re still in a drought technically.”

A dry winter means less snow to run off, into rivers already near record lows. “Something that people may not know, is that when we look at the Missouri river specifically, it is very, very, low it’s currently at 10 feet,” said Schnell. “Flood stage isn’t until you get to 27 feet.”

Still, those living near the Platte, can’t help but be unnerved by the sights and sounds of floodwaters.

“We just pray it’s not just going to be as bad, and they get a hold of the ice jams quickly before that actually happens like it did 2019, as fast as it did,” said Heatherly.

The Corps of Engineers recently sent out a notice reminding people they’re still working to get the levees repaired to pre-flood protection levels, asking everyone to remain aware and diligent this upcoming flood season.

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