Spring break is a time students look forward to, to put aside classwork and unwind for a week. However, natural disasters are unexpected and it’s difficult to prepare for such circumstances.
The Nebraska flood affected many towns including Fremont, Plattsmouth, Wood River, Waterloo, Elkhorn, Springville, Louisville and parts of Iowa. Public Relations major and Nebraska City resident Mariah Koeneke said it was a scary experience.
“Luckily it was spring break, so I was off the hook there,” Koeneke said. “But I found myself constantly checking the weather, road closures, and seeing if I had backups for my shifts at work.”
“Only a small portion of our town was flooded,” Koeneke said. “While it caused massive damage, it did not directly affect my family.”
Although Erica Pokorney, a UNO business student, wasn’t hit by the flood personally, it hit her secondhand with family and friends in North Bend and Fremont.
“Some of my family were in the middle of the flood,” Pokorney said. “For me, it was more or less sitting and hoping nothing happened to them.”
Fortunately, her family wasn’t directly affected.
Pokorney’s family evacuated from their home to stay at a more secure location. “I really feel like everyone did as much as they could to help everyone that was affected,” Pokorney said. “Which was one of the biggest things anyone could do.”
Besides many homes being destroyed, the biggest impact was on the roads, Pokorney said. “Having those roads damaged affects many more people than we realize,” she said.
Nebraska City was almost completely cut off from Omaha and Iowa. Koeneke said the impact caused her to leave an extra 20-30 minutes early to be on time for work.
“I was going to be so upset if I had to go through Lincoln to get to Omaha,” Koeneke said. “It would have been an extra hour of a drive.”
Every road except for the one Pokorney currently travels on to get home has been damaged, which cause her to take a longer route.
“My parents were not able to get to work for a period of time because the roads they usually took to were totally impassable,” Pokorney said. “Their only other option was to take a 4 to 5-hour route, when it normally takes 20 minutes to get there.”
The land looked incredibly different between impacted and unharmed areas, Koneke said. “I saw the awful flooding in Springfield, Louisville, in Iowa, and the riverside of Nebraska city,” she said. “Then, I saw people in Omaha and Lincoln who were not affected at all and not really ‘doing their part.’”
Koneke said it broke her heart when she witnessed a few people say, “It’s not really causing problems for me, so I honestly don’t care that much.”
“I saw places where fields full of cattle used to be,” Koneke said. “Just gone. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.”
Pokorney’s biggest take away was seeing how strong everyone was during the hardest time. “So many people made so many selfless acts to help those who were in need,” she said.
Koneke said people could help those in need by donating time, money, and non-perishable goods.
“Even if something is not directly affecting you, something can still be done to help those in need,” Koneke said. “Families lost their entire lives and are trying to rebuild, they need our help.”
The University of Nebraska Medical Center/Nebraska Medicine and the University of Nebraska at Omaha opened a Flood Relief Donation Management Center. It is open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Donations may be dropped off at the UNMC General Supply at 601 S. Saddle Creek Road on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Anyone interested in donating items is encouraged to check the list of requested items on UNMC Newsroom website.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will open locations in different areas for residents to apply for the Disaster SNAP, which allows eligible households in disaster declared counties to get SNAP funds to purchase food. More information is available on the DHHS Newsroom site.