ICS Magazine

Nebraskans clean up after a weekend of flooding

May 31, 2008

KEARNEY, Neb. – (World-Herald) -- Tuesday was a good day to run a carpet cleaning business in Dawson County, Neb.

Dozens of frustrated homeowners, still trying to clean up after heavy rains pounded the area last week and over the weekend, were calling Cozad Carpet Cleaning and Restoration with the same harried question: Can you please pump the water out of my basement?

"We've gotten more than 45 phone calls,'' said Dan Wilkens, the business's owner. "They're not patient, and I understand it. Everyone's all wet.''Flooding in central Nebraska highlighted a long weekend of storms that toppled trees in eastern Nebraska and southwestern Iowa and pushed the Elkhorn River to its banks. No deaths were reported.

The City of Lincoln will close a section of a major street today to remove branches and debris. Police and city crews in Shenandoah, Iowa, spent Memorial Day and Tuesday cleaning up after 50 mph winds uprooted trees.

Some county roads remained flooded and impassable in Frontier County north of McCook, Neb., officials said.

The cleanup slowed in Cozad and Lexington, where the worst flooding was reported, because still more rain fell Tuesday, said Brian Woldt, Dawson County emergency management director.

It could have been much worse, weather experts said. Nebraska narrowly avoided the dangerous tornadoes that killed seven people in northeast Iowa.

Nebraska also could have faced even worse flooding had several storm systems in a row hit the same part of the state. Instead, the later storms nailed eastern Nebraska, whereas the earlier storms dumped large amounts of rain on central Nebraska.

State Farm Insurance received about 300 claims from Nebraska homeowners, mostly related to wind and hail damage, said Erica Orrell, a company spokeswoman. The company insures about one-fourth of insured Nebraska homeowners.

Iowa fared far worse, Orrell said -- 741 Iowa homeowners had filed insurance claims by Tuesday.

"I guess the good thing is that the rain wasn't focused in any one area,'' said Van DeWald, lead meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Valley. "It bounced around a little bit, and that spread the problems around.''

Central Nebraska, particularly in and around Dawson County, faced the most cleanup work after several storms dumped more than 7 inches of rain during a 48-hour period at the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend.

Many homes and businesses remained flooded Tuesday, particularly in the southern and eastern parts of Cozad, Woldt said.

Residents started to repair dozens of damaged houses, vacuum out cars that had been submerged in water and rescue camping vehicles that drifted away in the floodwaters, he said.

The mood dampened as the skies did, Woldt said. Some areas of Dawson County had already received an additional inch of rain by midafternoon Tuesday.

"We just keep getting rain we don't need,'' he said.

All that water meant brisk business for the carpet cleaning industry, Wilkens said.

His company's employees worked 16-hour days through the weekend, emptying basements, drying carpets and attempting to stop the growth of mold in flooded homes.

The company had to buy a trailer-load of new drying equipment and pumps to keep up with the demand.

"I haven't seen anything like this since I've been here,'' said Wilkens, who has owned carpet cleaning businesses for 14 years.