Airboats called in to rescue stranded residents in Nickerson, Scribner

Published: Mar. 14, 2019 at 4:57 PM CDT
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Maple Creek flooded downtown Nickerson, prompting a town-wide evacuation.

A few people didn't heed the warning, hoping the levees around their homes would hold off the flood.

"I heard some crunching in the leaves down by the creek and I looked down there. We have a dike around the whole place and the dike just collapsed and I saw a rush of water and I rushed myself right into the house," Ronnie Zrust told 6 News just after he was rescued.

The banks of Maple Creek overflowed with rain and melted snow, making it more like a raging river.

"We've never had this type of a flood before so they thought they would be protected in a place and stay where they were at and be safe. Unfortunately, that didn't work out so good today," Nickerson Fire Chief Dusty Menking said.

Zrust said he's ridden out high water before, but it wasn't this cold the last few times.

"The first year we moved there we had about this much water, but it was in August and you can deal with it when it's 70 degrees out instead of 35, 40," he said.

High winds forced first responders to take extra precautions as they feared airboats might flip.

"They tried some with a rubber raft, but going back against that wind would have been nasty so it could have flipped over," Zrust said.

He was one of several rescues just around Nickerson. Chief Menking said smaller communities pooled resources on Thursday to keep stranded residents safe.

"Valley Fire and Wahoo or Waterloo came in. They tried to assist earlier this morning. We weren't able to deploy their boats, so now we have these coming in and we're hoping to get those out in the water and get those people back to safety," Menking said.

Zrust said he will be able to stay with family nearby who are on dry ground. The damages on his home are to be determined.

"This morning when I called I was getting really nervous 'cause it's right up against the house starting to run in and we've got one sump pump down there," he said.

The flooding meant people on higher ground were essentially trapped on islands of dry land.

The City of Scribner was completely isolated an unreachable by anything but a boat.