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Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

Gov. Ricketts Issues Emergency Declaration as Nebraska Prepares for Potential Historic Flooding

For Immediate Release:

7:05PM CT on March 12, 2019


Media Contacts:  

Taylor Gage, 402-471-1970

Eric Maher, 402-471-1974


Media Release:

Gov. Ricketts Issues Emergency Declaration as Nebraska Prepares for Potential Historic Flooding

LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts in consultation with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) issued an emergency declaration effective March 12, 2019, in anticipation of severe weather issues set to impact the state.  The emergency declaration will allow NEMA and other state agencies to address potential impacts from the impending severe winter storm expected to affect the Panhandle area, as well as anticipated flooding across other areas of the state. 


“Nebraska has experienced a significant amount of severe weather and precipitation over the last couple of months,” said Governor Ricketts.  “Nebraskans should watch the forecast closely in the coming days, and be prepared for severe weather events in conjunction with potential historic flooding.  As Nebraskans know, conditions can change quickly, and everyone needs to be prepared.”


The action taken by Governor Ricketts will allow NEMA to coordinate response and recovery activities with local jurisdictions, state agency partners, and a variety of other stakeholder organizations.  The emergency declaration allows local jurisdictions who require assistance with capabilities and resources to direct requests for assistance to the State of Nebraska. 


The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning for the Panhandle region in anticipation of a major winter weather system entering the state.  This storm will be dangerous and life-threatening with significant impact on transportation, utilities and agricultural producers.  Snowfall amounts in excess of 18 to 24 inches are possible and 50-60 miles per hour winds will make travel difficult to impossible. 


Motorists are urged to exercise care and travel is not recommended as the winter storm system enters the state.  Residents should anticipate rapidly changing winter conditions with this storm system.  The Governor’s Office urges Nebraska residents and agricultural producers to take precautionary measures to protect life and property. 


In addition, flooding will be a primary concern in many areas of the state due to warmer temperatures generating runoff from snowmelt.  While this storm system is expected to deliver record levels of snow in the Panhandle it is expected to generate 1-3 inches of rainfall in the eastern portions of Nebraska.  Frozen ground and high soil saturation levels will allow snowmelt and precipitation to runoff into rivers and streams which are currently frozen.  Significant flooding is possible along the Loup, Platte, Elkhorn, and Missouri Rivers.  Ice jams in several locations may likely exacerbate flooding. 


The Governor’s Office has authorized NEMA to implement ice dusting operations on the Loup and Platte Rivers when conditions permit.  The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality has issued a permit to conduct this operation once weather conditions change.  If feasible, NEMA will commence operations as early as Friday.  The agency will pre-position coal ash material at the airports in Columbus and Wahoo to facilitate the aerial application of the material on river ice.  A private aerial applicator will apply the material at the direction and oversight of NEMA and local jurisdictions. 


The agency is also working with a variety of partners including the United States Army Corps of Engineers to stage sandbagging supplies associated with flood fighting measures directed at the local level. 


The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) at NEMA will begin a partial activation involving Emergency Support Function (ESF) Coordinators representing partner agencies.  The SEOC will assist local jurisdictions with technical advice associated with response measures and provide assistance with the coordination of needed resources. 


The FEMA Region VII Watch Center located in Kansas City, Missouri will monitor weather issues and provide assistance to states as this storm system moves through the region.  The Governor’s Office has authorized state agencies to pre-position resources or personnel deemed appropriate to assist local jurisdictions with emergency response issues. 


The Nebraska State Patrol, the Nebraska Department of Transportation, and the Nebraska National Guard will be coordinating personnel and equipment needed to address these activities.  NEMA strongly encourages individuals or families with functional needs to reach out to their local officials in advance of the storm system reaching their area.  This will permit local officials to plan appropriately and identify the resources needed to provide assistance.