Road to Eppley Airfield: check.
Volunteer sandbagging: check.
Flooding around Omaha's most important gasoline terminal: nearly under control.
Localized flooding in north downtown: a work in progress.
With the Missouri River rising rapidly, the water table beginning to gush to the surface, sewage drainage ditches backing up and months of unknown problems ahead, Omaha is calling for reinforcements and setting priorities.
Bob Stubbe, head of public works for Omaha, said flooding is likely to continue into late summer, so the city has to prepare for the long haul.
The city announced a second volunteer sandbagging site on Wednesday and said it is seeking help from the National Guard in monitoring Omaha's 13-mile levee.
The second sandbagging site will chew up some downtown parking spots, just as the College World Series begins, but mayoral spokeswoman Aida Amoura described the decision as straight-forward.
“The need for sandbags is greater than the need for parking,” Amoura said.
Private individuals and businesses can make sandbags for their own use at these sites, Mayor Jim Suttle said.
In the meantime, the city advises businesses and residents in the north downtown area that private property is third on the city's list of three priorities for protection. Public safety and public infrastrucutre are the top priorities.
Private individuals need to make their own preparations.
For now, officials say, the city has solved problems with water ponding along Abbott Drive.
And the city is on the way to solving problems around a nearby petroleum tank farm and a parking lot near the Qwest Center Omaha and TD Ameritrade Park.
Ponding problems east of Abbott Drive were solved after a city worker discovered a pipe running through the levee, said Marty Grate of the Public Works Department. The pipe was allowing river water to flow into property along the road, he said.
The pipe wasn't on the city's maps, which is why it hadn't been plugged earlier, Grate said. It has since been sealed, he said, and the amount of water flowing into that field has slowed considerably.
Grate said the city is back to its normal level of pumping from that field — one pump, instead of the previous two.
Abbott Drive, a key route to Eppley Airfield, no longer is considered significantly vulnerable to flooding, Grate said.
The city is, however, aggressively focused on bringing a petroleum tank site back on-line after it shut down Sunday.
Water has been ponding at the Magellan Midstream Partners terminal because the city's drainage system in that area is no longer functioning normally.
Grate said the city has closed the floodgates on two sewer lines that serve that area and discharge into the river.
The gates had to be closed to keep rising river water from flowing up the sewer lines and into the city. With the gates closed, the city's drainage system is backing up, and runoff that should flow into a city drainage ditch is flowing onto the tank site.
Because the floodgates cannot be opened, the solution is simple, Grate said: more pumps, bigger pumps.
The city has ordered 18 high-powered pumps, and three have arrived.
Stubbe, the public works director, said he believes the tank farm will reopen within a few days after the pumps begin working.
Not yet under control, Stubbe said, is a problem with sewer water that is surging up from a curb inlet near 14th and Izard Streets, down the street and then back into the sewers at another inlet.
The two inlets are next to the Hot Shops art house and just north of TD Ameritrade Park.
Stubbe said the city doesn't know why the problem is occurring.
Tim Barry, managing partner at Hot Shops, 1301 Nicholas St., has little faith in the city. He expects the building's sprawling collection of artist studios to flood, at least at the lower level.
The building will survive, he believes, and after the water drops it will be back to work.
“We'll just have to wait it out, but it could be a long wait,” Barry said.
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