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Nebraska family faces icy aftermath of spring flooding

May 7, 2019
This March 15, 2019, photo provided by Ann Kepler shows a large ice jam from the Niobrara River flood with the Kepler family standing nearby in Keya Paha County, Neb. A rich bottomland hay meadow that a northern Nebraska ranch family relies on to feed dozens of cows vanished beneath truck-size icebergs when the Niobrara River flooded earlier this spring. Ann and Billy Kepler told the Lincoln Journal Star that the March flooding left their Keya Paha County property overrun by a wall of ice that stood 20 feet high and 200 yards wide. The ice has since melted, but it left behind a silt-filled layer of clay. (Ann Kepler via AP)

NEWPORT, Neb. (AP) — A rich bottomland hay meadow that a northern Nebraska ranch family relies on to feed dozens of cows vanished beneath truck-size icebergs when the Niobrara River flooded earlier this spring.

Ann and Billy Kepler told the Lincoln Journal Star that the March flooding left their Keya Paha County property overrun by icebergs that stood 20 feet (6 meters) high and 200 yards (183 meters) wide. The wall of ice covered nearly a mile of the Kepler’s 75-acre (30-hectare) hay meadow, where the couple’s 200 cows used to feed on grass.

The river’s flooding not only inundated the property, but the water and ice that followed also uprooted about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) of the Kepler’s fencing, breaking wooden posts and bending steel.

The ice has since melted, but it left behind a silt-filled layer of clay.

Ann Kepler said the foot of mud has essentially turned the grass that would nourish their cows into a river bed.

The couple has also had to clear out debris and forgotten items washed from the recreational river onto the meadow, such as Frisbees, floating tubes and bridge planks.

They’re fighting to find time to clean out the meadow while managing their jobs, children and animals.

“Any day we’ve had time and the weather has cooperated, we’ve been over there,” Ann Kepler said.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com