KEARNEY — Gov. Pete Ricketts said in a press conference this morning that the state of Nebraska will provide the assistance it can to assist with flood recovery in the Kearney area.
So far, the only request has been for more sandbag materials for Gibbon.
In a helicopter flyover with state Sens. John Lowe of Kearney and Matt Williams of Gothenburg, Ricketts assessed damages from Lexington, where new government housing units are inundated; to Kearney, where the city’s lodging district is under water; to Gibbon, which has been bracing for flooding on a more destructive scale than what occurred in March.
Ricketts said he’s grateful there have been no reported injuries or deaths from the flooding, and repeated a warning that Nebraska motorists have frequently heard in 2018: “Turn around, don’t drown.”
Some 700-800 vehicles were flooded in Kearney, according to city estimates.
Damage assessments don’t include a preliminary dollar figure yet, Ricketts said, but as floodwaters recede, damages are beginning to appear. City Manager Mike Morgan said this morning during the press conference at Kearney Regional Airport that Archway Parkway is washed out. The street carries traffic from Kearney’s main Interstate 80 exit to The Archway.
Ricketts complimented local first responders, transportation agencies and the University of Nebraska at Kearney, which opened two residence halls so travelers lodging at Kearney hotels, and anyone left homeless by the flood has a place to stay. UNK also is determining whether it can assist in hosting any of the major conferences, athletic events and social gatherings at Kearney hotels later this week.
Paul Younes, who owns Holiday Inn and six other Kearney hotels, said he is grateful for the public’s assistance. About 500 of his guests had to be evacuated Tuesday.
“There were kids crying,” Younes said about the scene as people were ferried from his hotels to UNK.
Brian Tuma, the state’s emergency management director, accompanied Ricketts and said the state still is under the disaster declaration from the March floods, so it’s unclear how that will affect the state’s requests for federal assistance with this week’s flooding.
“We’ll have to work with FEMA on that,” Tuma said.
Kearney Mayor Stan Clouse, a retail sales manager for Nebraska Public Power District, said some Kearney businesses and residents are without power. NPPD de-energized its south substation, just northeast of the Second Avenue/I-80 interchange, and is waiting until it can safely be put back into service.
“Obviously there are a lot of businesses without power, but we can’t energize for public safety reasons,” Clouse said.
Ricketts said that flooding effects on agriculture are among his concerns. He said his office will check with the USDA on possible assistance and then report to crop producers.
He responded to a question about this year’s rainy weather pattern.
“I don’t know if this weather is the new normal, but if there’s a silver lining, the flooding is receding a lot faster this time,” he said.