Officials warn of flooding potential as ice, snowmelt and rain combine

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Those who live close to the Platte River should be on high alert, as chances for flooding grow with melting snow and incoming rain.

The Platte River at Louisville on Mar. 8, 2019.

Steve Becker has lived near the Platte all of his life and has seen the river rise before.

"Oh, '92 we had 15-and-a-half inches of water in the house and this is just a one-level house so we lost everything," he remembered.

Becker spent Friday clearing snow from his roof to prevent ice jams forming in his gutters, but he can't prevent the ice jams forming close to his home on the river.

"With the cold weather being as long as it has this year and it's going to warm up real fast, it's going to be a real problem, I think," he said.

Officials have been monitoring the river for several weeks.

"We think that over time, as the snow melts and the water increases in depth, especially along the rivers, we could have some ice break too to add to that issue," Paul Johnson with Douglas County Emergency Management said. "Ice jams. We're looking at ice jams along the Elkhorn and the Platte, and that's happened to us before and of course, we're always keeping an eye on the Missouri as well."

John Winkler, with the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, said he's been keeping a close eye on the Platte, as the thickness of ice on the river was at 15 inches earlier in the week.

"What happens now is with everything frozen, the six to eight inches of snowpack and once the rain comes and there's nowhere for it to go, it's going to run off into the creeks and streams," Winkler explained. "That will start lifting the ice and start moving the ice and with the cold temperatures we've had, there's potential for a lot of problems."

He sees it being a problem for everyone living around the river.

"We've looked at the forecast, we've looked at all the current conditions, there's no good news. It's all bad news. There's no silver lining. It's going to be a difficult year as far as moving this ice out," Winkler said.

It's not just those who live near Nebraska's rivers who need to use caution. Metro officials are concerned about street flooding.

Omaha City Work crews were out cleaning off sewer grates and inlets Friday to make sure all the melting runoff has a place to go.

"Right now we are looking at the surface water runoff. It's going to be warming up in the next week or so with so much snowpack and the frozen ground, the water drainage could be an issue," Johnson said.

Officials from the Papio NRD have advised those who live around the Platte River to pay attention to their property and the forecast and to call the National Weather Service if they see anything.