LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – State officials urged residents on Friday to avoid the contaminated flood water pouring into western Nebraska from Colorado, while offering assurances that the flood posed no immediate threat to cities, railroad lines or Interstate 80.
Nebraska emergency management officials said they were keeping close watch on the South Platte River, which continued to rise Friday in western and central parts of the state.
“We don’t get the floods on the Platte as often as some other places, so this is something we just need to continue to watch,” said Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann, the state’s Homeland Security director. “We try to anticipate as much as we possibly can, and just go from there.”
By late Friday afternoon, the river was slowly receding near Big Springs, a Nebraska town of 400 about 10 miles from the Colorado border. Waters were rising in North Platte, a city of 25,000 about 75 miles to the east.
As it recedes, emergency management officials said the river could pose a health risk from oil, fertilizers, and dangerous debris that flowed in from Colorado.
State officials were also keeping watch on the spot where the North and South Platte rivers converge, just to the east of North Platte, said Al Berndt, the state’s assistant emergency management director. Berndt said the flooded South Platte could cause water from the North Platte to back up into low-lying areas near U.S. Highway 83.
The warnings to residents came after Nebraska Game and Parks officials rescued a man from the South Platte River earlier this week. Authorities say two brothers from Colorado launched a canoe into the swollen river on Wednesday. The canoe capsized about a mile east of the Nebraska-Colorado state line.
Authorities say Joseph Schneiderwind, 48, of Conifer, Colo., remained on a sandbar while his 54-year-old brother, Mike Schneiderwind, swam to shore. Mike Schneiderwind, of Castle Rock, Colo., walked to U.S. Highway 138 and flagged a motorist for help.
Authorities said Joseph Schneiderwind was chest-deep in water and clinging to a tree when they arrived. He was taken to a hospital to be treated for possible hypothermia.
The flood forced the closure of two roads Friday afternoon north of Interstate 80, connecting to the towns of Big Springs and Roscoe. But the interstate itself remained open and did not appear to be threatened by the flood, said Mike Wight, an acting spokesman for the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.
Wight said backed-up floodwater was moving toward railroad tracks owned by Union Pacific near the town of Sutherland, in western Nebraska. Floodwater over the tracks could disrupt the national route, but Wight said Friday that they were no longer in danger.
The Nebraska State Patrol issued a reminder that the flood has displaced deer and other wildlife along the river, creating a potential hazard for motorists.
State officials said American Red Cross workers from North Platte, Kearney, Grand Island, Lincoln and Omaha were also in place to help deal with potential flooding.
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.
– By GRANT SCHULTE, Associated Press
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