Russ' Vintage Iron

Weather Complicates Spring

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Flooding rerouted traffic in many places near Omaha due to historic weather in the area. (DTN photo by Russ Quinn)

I am a little late writing this column. Usually, I try to write something toward the end of the month, but I didn't get it written at the end of March because of two words I had never heard used together before: bomb cyclone.

Unless you have been living under a rock the last several weeks, you probably have heard of -- or even seen first-hand -- the devastating effects of a so-called bomb cyclone. This weather event produced a blizzard and heavy rains that caused severe flooding over a good part of Nebraska, southwestern Iowa and into parts of Missouri. And some parts of central Nebraska had both blizzard conditions AND heavy rains in the same day.

All of this precipitation fell on soil that was still frozen and wasn't able to absorb all the extra water, which then flowed into various waterways, causing them to rise well above their banks and flood homes, businesses, fields and pastureland.

I have spent quite of bit of my time the last few weeks reporting about the damage caused by the flooding and how the people in affected areas will carry on with their lives and run their ag businesses. Now that I have some time to digest the situation some, I have some thoughts on what I have seen first-hand.

For starters, the amount of damage is hard to comprehend unless you have seen it with your own eyes. It was amazing how much moisture fell on March 13 and how fast the snow melted, which led to the flooding.

At my house northwest of Omaha, we had probably a foot of snow on the ground, and it was mostly gone in less than two days. I have lived in eastern Nebraska my entire life, and I have never seen anything like this.

Secondly, it was interesting, to say the least, to cover such a large natural disaster in my home area. As a reporter, I normally travel somewhere else to cover something like this, but not this time.

There is something surreal about covering massive flooding in an area where I have lived my whole life. I was taking photos of flooded buildings on a now-developed farm my family farmed my entire childhood.

To some extent, it did make it a little more difficult to cover the event, as I personally knew people who lived near area rivers whose homes and farms flooded. This personal connection made covering the disaster more emotional.

While the floodwaters receded weeks ago now, many areas will be dealing with the effects of the destructive flooding for many months -- if not years -- down the road.

Some people lost everything, and it will take a long time for them to rebuild their homes and their lives. Farmers have seen entire herds of cattle and bins full of grain washed away. In some cases, farmers now have many feet of sand deposited on their once-productive fields.

There is no quick fix that will solve most of these heart-wrenching situations.

One of the biggest issues that will affect the area in the weeks and months ahead is the number of roads -- both rural roads and major highways -- that are still closed due to damage from flooding and how this will affect spring fieldwork. All of us in the flood-affected areas are putting more miles on our cars taking detours around closed roads. Fertilizer retailers and farmers will also be forced to go many miles out of their way to plant crops this spring.

While you would have to look very hard for a positive to come out of this horrible situation, I do think the way people in most every community came together to support those affected by the flooding was pretty humbling to see.

Towns, schools, churches, civic organizations and even individuals -- everyone -- tried to do something to help those affected.

My kids didn't have school for several days during the flooding, as there was no way for people west of the Elkhorn River to make it to Arlington. But they and many others did go to the school to help sort all of the supplies being donated. Organizations only set up a few tables that first day, but with the amount of supplies donated, they ended up with an entire hallway full of supplies.

My hope is all of the kids saw the reaction of their families to the disaster and will remember this as they get older. Someday, many years from now when something bad happens in their communities, they will be able to draw on this experience and know how to help those in need.

You can still help, as many groups and organizations are continuing to collect donations for those affected by the floods. Please consider helping in some way, as you never know what kind of severe weather or disaster could affect you someday.

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

(AG\SK)