The latest on flooding: June 29 - Omaha.com
Published Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 1:00 am / Updated at 12:03 pm
The latest on flooding: June 29

Siren testing suspended:Pottawattamie County officials have decided not to test the county's civil defense sirens in July. County Attorney Matt Wilber said the testing, normally done on the first Saturday of the month, might lead residents to believe there is a flood-related emergency. No decision has been made about the August test. Council Bluffs currently is on a Level 1 alert for flooding, the lowest alert status, meaning residents should be prepared to evacuate if that becomes necessary. Siren testing in Douglas County will go on as scheduled on Wednesday, July 6.

Harrison County, Iowa: The Iowa Department of Transportation will temporarily close U.S. Highway 30 between Missouri Valley and Blair, Neb., starting at 8:30 a.m Wednesday. Workers will install a flood-control barrier along the highway's south side. The highway may be reopened in 48 hours, but the timing will depend on a number of factors, including weather and rising floodwaters. Those who otherwise would use this stretch of highway are asked to use Interstate 80 instead.

Des Moines River: People along the Des Moines River downstream of Lake Red Rock are being warned of possible flooding. The Army Corps of Engineers has increased the release to 30,000 cubic feet per second, 8,000 more than the normal 22,000 cubic feet per second. The increase is designed to preserve water storage space. Engineers say the water behind the dam is expected to keep rising, as will the outflow. The corps says that when the pool reaches 776 feet above sea level, the outflow gradually will be raised to 35,000 cubic feet per second. The record pool level at Lake Red Rock is about 782 feet. It was set in July 1993.

Prepare for mailers: The City of Omaha plans to mail out informational fliers to an estimated 2,300 businesses and residents within the flood evacuation zone. The mailers should be sent at the end of this week or the beginning of next week, city officials said.

Amtrak routes: Flooding along the Missouri River will disrupt two Amtrak routes. Amtrak is suspending its Empire Builder service between St. Paul, Minn., and Havre, Mont., until further notice. And no alternative transportation will be available between those points. But Amtrak said trains will offer limited service east and west of those points on the Empire Builder line. Amtrak said flooding would also temporarily disrupt its California Zephyr service Wednesday and Thursday. Amtrak said flooding in the Omaha area has made it hard to get all the crews and railcars it needs. But that disruption was to affect only the train scheduled to leave Emeryville, Calif., on Wednesday and the return trip west scheduled to depart from Chicago on Thursday. Affected passengers are encouraged to call 800-USA-RAIL for updates.

Drinking water: The Metropolitan Utilities District wants customers to know that its three drinking water treatment plants in the Omaha metro area are unaffected by flooding. The Florence Water Treatment Plant is served by the Missouri River, but it sits at a high elevation, MUD officials said. It is not expected to be affected by flooding. The other two plants are served by the Platte River and have the capacity to serve the entire Omaha metro area in the unlikely event the Florence Plant is shut down, officials said.

Water woes: The city of Plattsmouth asked residents to voluntarily restrict their water usage Tuesday in order to conserve resources at the Plattsmouth Water Treatment Plant. The plant is operating, but the only access has been by boat. Materials such as chlorine and lime have to be boated in, and the less water used the fewer materials are needed. The Missouri River at Plattsmouth measured 36.32 feet on Tuesday — about 7 feet above flood stage, putting the city in the moderate flooding level, the National Weather Service said.

Volunteers needed: Council Bluffs needs 50 to 100 volunteers daily for its Volunteer Center. There are two shifts per day, morning and afternoon, Monday through Friday. The center, based at the First Christian Church, appreciates groups that volunteer together. So far, high school sports teams, college teams, office teams, civic organizations and Amish farmers from Iowa have helped out. Contact Kris Ranney at the Flood Volunteer Center at 712-328-2606.

Evacuation planning: Metropolitan Utilities District customers planning to evacuate homes or businesses can call 402-554-6666 to shut off the gas. To turn off the water, turn the shut-off valve by the water meter clockwise. After flood waters recede, MUD will turn the gas back on at no charge. Call the same number to make an appointment.

Sandbagging stats: A total of 2,364 people had volunteered for sandbagging duty in Omaha as of Tuesday, said Amber Miller of the Omaha Parks Foundation. Those volunteers have made more than 276,000 sandbags and clocked in more than 5,600 hours, she said.

Medical care: The University of Nebraska Medical Center's Plattsmouth Physicians Clinic will stay open in spite of flooding problems in the city. The clinic has prepared in the event of the water supply being interrupted or affected, installing portable toilets and purchasing bottled water. It also is stocked with extra tetanus immunization shots. However, if Highway 75 is closed, patients who cannot get to the clinic are advised to make an appointment with the Medical Center office in Bellevue. For more information, contact the Plattsmouth clinic at 402-296-6009.

Campers: Creighton University is providing housing for displaced campers from Gene Eppley Camp in Bellevue. The camp, operated by the Salvation Army, closed earlier this month because of flooding. Campers will stay at a Creighton residence hall through Saturday and again July 5 to 8. About 200 children attend each camp.

Sandbagging: Omaha officials canceled sandbagging for this Saturday at Levi Carter Park because it is a holiday weekend. Volunteers 19 and older are still needed Thursday and Friday. Shifts are available between 12:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. The following week, sandbagging will resume Thursday through Saturday at the park, which is across from Eppley Airfield on Abbott Drive. The Omaha Parks Foundation asked for donations of bottled water or small Gatorade bottles. Call 402-444-5947 to donate.

Shelter: The Red Cross shelter at the East Mills High School in Malvern, Iowa, is no longer open 24 hours due to decreased need. It now is on standby status. In addition, the emergency aid station at First Assembly of God in Council Bluffs closed Tuesday night, also due to decreased need. These two Red Cross shelters are open 24 hours a day: Missouri Valley High School, 605 Lincoln Highway, Missouri Valley, Iowa, and Peru State College, Neal Hall, Peru, Neb.

Stay awhile: Having trouble finding an affordable place to stay long-term since the Missouri River engulfed your home? To help out, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission extended camp stays for flood victims. With a referral from the Red Cross, people affected by the flood can pitch a tent or park a trailer for up to 90 days. Fees will depend on the park, campsite and facilities available. For more information, contact the Game and Parks Commission at 402-471-5586.

Damage reports: Wednesday at noon is the deadline to submit individual damage reports to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. To give a preliminary report on any affected property damage due to flooding or recent storms, call toll free at 855-211-2453 or 855-211-2454. Flood victims can also submit reports online at http://www.nema.ne.gov/newsroom/home-damage-contact.html. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is asking property owners to provide their best estimates of damage. NEMA, along with FEMA and the National Guard, will begin making assessments on Thursday.

Mills County, Iowa: The county has requested sandbags to protect critical infrastructure in Pacific Junction as well as several drainage districts.

Pottawattamie County: Officials are asking residents to report on the county's website, pottcounty.com, any flood damage they have sustained, said County Attorney Matt Wilber. The site's “Damage Reporting Tool” even allows people to upload photos. The current presidential disaster declaration only reimburses public agencies, Wilber said. If more people provide damage assessments of their private property, there is a better chance for a declaration that would cover individuals. Those who don't have computers can call the county's flood hotline at 712-328-4672.

World-Herald staff writers Sam Womack, Emily Nohr, Emerson Clarridge and Andrew J. Nelson.

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