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Flood preparations paying off for Nebraska community

July 12, 2019
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In this Wednesday, July 10, 2019 photo, volunteers and residents, including Joe Kemling of Wood River, left, help fill sandbags in the Wood River High School parking lot as floodwaters continue to move eastward toward Wood River, Neb. (Barrett Stinson/The Independent via AP)

WOOD RIVER, Neb. (AP) — Flood preparations so far are paying off for a south-central Nebraska community menaced by a rain-swollen river of the same name.

City of Wood River Mayor Greg Cramer said Friday that a temporary diversion dike and other preparations have helped keep the floodwater from the Wood River at manageable levels and locations, minimizing street flooding.

Floodwater ran up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep on some streets in March on the south side of the city, after drenching storms hastened snowmelt and caused devastating flooding in eastern Nebraska.

“In March, it’s like, ‘Hey, the water’s here,’” Cramer said.

The same streets Friday had but a few inches, he said.

The difference? Time to plan and prepare.

Warnings were issued after up to 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain fell in some spots during storms that struck several south-central Nebraska counties overnight Monday.

The city of 1,350 was able to clean out runoff channels and take other steps it didn’t have time to take in March.

“We’re looking pretty good,” Cramer said.

Upstream at Gibbon, where the river crested Wednesday less than a foot under its record level, residents, business owners and city officials were cleaning up the mess.

Trista Cress with the community’s volunteer fire department estimated that 90% of the north side and 40% of the south side sustained damage. Some homes have collapsed basements, others have sewage in the basements.

“It’s ugly. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody,” Cress told the Omaha World-Herald.

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