2011 Flood: Devastating to Nebraska, Iowa

Published: Jun. 1, 2016 at 8:57 PM CDT
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The 2011 flood devastated Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri as it slowly pushed its way down the Missouri River.

More than $2 billion dollars in damage, 4,000 flooded out homes and five deaths; the flood of 2011 spanned the entire summer, causing problems all along the Missouri River.

Heavy snow packs and January rains upstream stressed the dam system all along the Missouri. In early June, Dakota Dunes, South Dakota was the first area hit. Those in harm's way began packing up and moving out.

On June 4th, the levee near Hamburg, Iowa broke closing a section of interstate 29 to be covered in water. Meanwhile, Gavin’s Point Dam was releasing four times the water IT released in early May.

“They kept saying going to release a little bit of water and then we’re going to let some more go and some more go and all of a sudden it's 'hey, we got way too much and open them up and then it really got bad,” said Bob Jones of Council Bluffs.

Jones watched the water move closer and closer to his south Council Bluffs home.

“All of this was covered in water, you couldn't see nothing but water,” said Jones. “Thankfully the levees held.”

Jones was one of the lucky ones, others weren't so fortunate. On June 30th, the levee near Percival, Iowa collapsed. Several other levees also broke flooding 22 miles of I-29 north of the metro and a quarter of a million acres of farmland in Iowa alone.

In Council Bluffs, roads collapsed leaving behind a sinkhole that was nearly 20 feet deep. Those near the river had to make a decision: fight the water rolling into their homes or leave.

Millions of sandbags were filled by volunteers trying to hold back flood waters. The Corps of Engineers installed seepage blankets to help shore up crumbling levees. Evacuation zones were created and many were stuck wondering what would happen next.

Flood waters created a lot of problems for travelers and commerce. Detours took drivers hours out of their way, slowing truck transport of goods, especially between here and Kansas City. The railroads were also hit hard too. Union Pacific reported losing nearly $20 million in coal revenue during the first month of flooding alone.