Flood update Friday

ASHLAND – First responders are keeping an eye on the Platte River as waters continue to rise on Friday.

Ashland Fire Department First Capt. Shane Haschke, who is coordinating the rescue/evacuation efforts, said members of the Ashland fire and rescue departments are monitoring the Platte River around Ashland as flooding continues.

Residents in lake communities north of Ashland along the Platte River were asked to be ready to evacuate by the first responders, who had crews out watching water levels in order to issue an evacuation notice if waters rise.

Around noon, the department reported on its Facebook page that waters had risen slightly at Thomas Lakes, a lake community north of Ashland, but were expected to rise throughout the day.

About an hour before that statement, the department reported that the levy at the water was three to five feet from breaching the levee at Big Sandy lake development.

Residents in lake communities east and south of Ashland were evacuated Thursday when the river rose quickly.

Residents in Horseshoe Lake in Cass County were evacuated about 7 a.m. Thursday morning when the Platte began to rise. Officials with Ashland fire and rescue, along with Cass County Emergency Management, went door-to-door to warn citizens.

Haschke said there were a few homes that could not be accessed by foot, so they brought in a HEMTT (heavy expanded mobility tractical truck) from the Mead Fire Department to help. The Plattsmouth and Yutan dive teams were also on hand, Haschke added.

The night before, residents were encouraged to leave their homes in Willow Point due to possible flooding, and many did. However, those who did not had to be rescued by airboat on Thursday morning as waters rose around their homes and cut off the only exit out of the community.

Haschke said while the department was still evacuating people from Horseshoe Lake, they received a call that Willow Point residents who had remained in their homes wanted to leave. As Ashland department members responded, an airboat from the Nebraska Game and Parks Department and another from a member of the Mead Fire Department headed to Willow Point.

The Yutan Fire Department helped with the Willow Point rescue. Haschke said they closed Highway 6 because family and friends who were picking up the Willow Point residents had to park on the highway.

“We had to shut down Highway 6 because we had so many cars and trucks there to pick people up,” he said.

The Platte River was still out of its banks near Willow Point and Linoma Beach on Friday morning, Haschke said.

During the Willow Point evacuation, Ashland fire and rescue received a call of a woman stranded on County Road A north of Ashland.

Haschke said the woman had lost control of her pickup, which was swept away by swift-moving flood water.

“She jumped out of the pickup and swam to a piece of dirt that she could see,” he said.

The Mead HEMTT and Ashland’s grass rig were sent to rescue the woman, but they were able to reach her on foot, Haschke said.

The woman was checked by EMTs and released less than a half an hour after being rescued.

“She’s OK,” Haschke said.

Water rose quickly on the north end of Ashland, according to one resident. Trina McCall said everything was dry when she went to bed at 9 p.m. on Wednesday. By Thursday morning, water was standing in the parking lot of her apartment in the triplex on 14th Street when she left for work at 7 a.m. After she learned flooding was taking place in Ashland, she left work early, returning home at 11:20 a.m. By that time, the water was much higher.

McCall was home just in time to witness a family being rescued next door. At 11 a.m., a report came in of a family stuck in their home at 14th and Furnas streets in Ashland, surrounded by water. Haschke said the family was stranded on the second floor of the home. Again, the Mead HEMTT was sent to rescue the family, who were transported from their deck to the top of the vehicle.

“The people managed to crawl on top of the truck,” Haschke said.

The vehicle took them to 14th and Euclid streets, where Ashland’s Truck 30 personnel helped them get off the truck.

Not long after the rescue in Ashland, the fire department was called to help a family stranded north of Ashland in the 500 block of Wann Road. Two adults and several animals were stranded, Haschke said.

Because the route north out of Ashland was blocked, Yutan Fire was sent instead.

“They could get there three times as fast as we were going to,” Haschke said.

The Ashland and Yutan departments had prepared for such a situation. Haschke said he and Yutan Fire Chief Don Dooley met with officials from the Mead, Cedar Bluffs and Ithaca fire departments, as well as the local natural resources districts and Saunders County Emergency Manager Terry Miller to discuss game plans for mutual aid and to determine what resources would be available.

Nir Levin, of Nirbuilt Airboats, was also called to bring his airboat to aid with the rescue on Wann Road.

“He was utilized to help get that group of people out,” Haschke said.

By 4:30 p.m., things had settled down enough that Haschke was able to send his crews home, where they remained on call Thursday night and Friday.

While no residents were in danger inside Ashland city limits, floodwater was taking its toll in other ways. Water that spilled over from the convergence of the Wahoo and Salt creeks near the Jack Anderson Ball Park filled the entire area with water on Thursday, reaching far beyond the level of flooding seen three years earlier.

“It is definitely higher than it was in 2015,” said Ashland Public Works Director Shane Larsen.

Larsen said the flood gates were put in place at the Scott Family Fan Center to prevent water getting into the building. Construction on the building began in 2014, but did not finish until nearly a year later because it was found to be located in, but not designed for, a floodplain. It was not finished when the flooding took place in May 2015.

On Thursday it was too early for Larsen to assess whether any damage had occurred in the Fan Center or to the field.

“We won’t know until it recedes,” he said.

Water was standing on the high school football field at Memorial Stadium on Thursday, but by Friday things looked good, according to Ashland-Greenwood Public School Superintendent Jason Libal. He inspected the field on Friday afternoon and found the water had drained off and there was no silt or debris left behind.

“Things looked really good,” he said.

The field had been completely renovated less than a year ago. The school district resurfaced the field, improved drainage and replaced goal posts. The $313,000 project included a sand-slit drainage system installed under a turf grown especially for sand-based soils.

School was not in session in Friday because of a pre-planned day off, but on Thursday students got an extra day off due to the weather. Libal said the flooded streets in and around Ashland prompted officials to call off school for safety reasons.

The flooding also caused other events in the community to be cancelled on Thursday, including the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce meeting and the Ashland Historical Society meeting.

Things were getting back to normal by Friday, however, as floodwaters began to recede. Highway 66 north of Ashland and 14th Street and Furnas Street in Ashland were opened to traffic on Friday.

Ashland Mayor Rick Grauerholz said this is one of the worst incidents of flooding he’s witnessed in the community.

“There’s water in places I’ve never seen it before,” he said.

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