The Great Flood of 2011
The roar of the Missouri flowing through the 14 floodgates spanning the shared Nebraska and South Dakota border was a hungry lion waiting to pounce. Soon the nation’s longest river would attack Nebraska with one of the worst floods in its history.
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Reaching Out Across the River - NEBRASKA CITY
While most of Nebraska City rested on higher ground above the merciless Missouri, its residents never lost touch with their bond to Iowans across the river.
“We consider the people on that side of the river part of Nebraska City,” said Rebecca Turner, Nebraska City’s executive director of tourism and commerce. “It’s the Nebraska City on the other side of the river.”
The losses of many Iowa farmers from Nebraska City’s second city hit home. When the bridge across Highway 2 was shut down, it not only blocked the border crossings of neighborly shoppers, but it suddenly left over a 1,000 Iowan workers facing 2-hour commutes to Nebraska City’s biggest employers, Elster American Meter and Cargill Meat Solutions.
But Nebraska City didn’t stay up on its hill. Hundreds of helping hands reached down across the river, donating food and finding housing for commuting workers. Volunteers watched the levees for holes caused by badgers and deer, while Cargill and Elster paid for round-the-clock marathon bus trips for its employees.
“You can imagine what kind of financial impact that would have had on the employees if they had to pay the gas for trips like that day and night,” said City Administrator Joseph Johnson.
At Region V Services, the Nebraska City agency that provides job training and other services for the region’s developmentally disabled, hundreds of sandwiches and kind thoughts were delivered to Hamburg, the Iowa community where one of Region V’s staffers lives.
“People in services and staff made over 300 sandwiches and then loaded them and the other food items into a van and pickup and headed out,” said Karen S. Ohnmacht of Region V Services. “Everywhere we stopped in Percival and Hamburg the people were so grateful. Many commented that they were in such a hurry
to get packed and moved, eating had just slipped their minds.”
Ohnmacht said that a few days later, the Region V brigade made another 300 plus sandwiches and again delivered them along with water to Hamburg volunteers who were filling sandbags. They also helped a Percival woman move from her farmhouse to stay with relatives in Nebraska City.
“I’ve lived in a lot of small communities all over the Midwest and I’ve never found a more tenacious bunch of people,” Turner said. “People who were not afraid of what they were going to face and were willing to roll up their sleeves and dive in. It’s the hardest-working town I’ve ever been in.”
Nebraska City again stepped up to the plate when they served weekly dinners at the First Presbyterian Church to dozens of Iowa workers displaced from their homes. The idea was the brainchild of Stephanie Shrader, a dedicated church member who also happens to be the executive director of Nebraska City Area Economic Development. While the Iowans were treated to tasty meals served up by volunteers, they also got feedback at the gatherings from the American Red Cross, the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA.
“Nebraska City is a great community with compassionate individuals and strong business people who work hard to weather difficult situations,” Shrader said.
That’s how they roll in Nebraska’s namesake city. They all stick together in all kinds of weather.