OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Western Nebraska residents are bracing for flooding along the South Platte River later this week when the water from Colorado’s torrential rains flows into the state.
The National Weather Service predicts the flooding will begin Wednesday and continue for several days, though most of the land likely to be affected is used for agriculture and contains few homes.
It’s not entirely clear how bad the flooding will be, though, because a number of gauges on the South Platte upstream of Nebraska were damaged by the debris in the water in Colorado, National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Taylor said. Forecasters will get a better idea once the high water reaches Julesburg, Colo., and Roscoe, Neb.
Water levels could reach record heights in rural areas along the South Platte as it runs along Interstate 76 and near Interstate 80 at Roscoe, and some flooding is expected in the city of North Platte. The weather service hasn’t yet issued a forecast for the river downstream of Brady.
“We’re making massive preparations,” Lincoln County emergency manager Dan Guenthner said, noting the flood could force the evacuation of a senior center with 300 residents in North Platte.
Officials aren’t sure how a new bridge over the South Platte and some newer neighborhoods in North Platte will affect flooding because there hasn’t been a significant one since they were built. County officials also are preparing for flooding in the Hidden Lakes neighborhood in southwest North Platte and on the Iron Eagle Golf Course.
The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency is sending a team to Ogallala to help local officials, and the American Red Cross is preparing to open shelters if needed.
Tuesday’s updated forecast still calls for flooding to begin Wednesday in western Nebraska. It’ll likely crest at 12.5 feet near Roscoe late Thursday or early Friday – well above the 9-foot flood stage. Previously, a crest of 13 feet was predicted.
Keith County Emergency Manager Pete Peterson said the last significant flooding on the South Platte River happened in the mid-1960s. That was before I-80 was built, so that makes it harder to predict how the water will behave.
But officials predict that this week’s floodwaters should remain in the area between I-80 and the Union Pacific railroad tracks. Only nine farmhouses are expected to be at risk.
Downstream near North Platte, flooding is expected to begin Friday when the river is slated to rise above 13 feet and crest Saturday at 13.5 feet – down from the previous prediction of 13.8 feet.
The forecast for Brady, near where the South Platte and North Platte rivers join, calls for a crest of 9.6 feet on Saturday – more than two feet above flood stage.
Colorado Floods: How To Help
The recent floods are impacting families and communities throughout Colorado, so CBS4 has compiled a list of ways you can support the local communities impacted by the floods.
LINK: NWS North Platte Office
– By JOSH FUNK, Associated Press
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)