Trails close: The Iowa Riverfront Trails north and south of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge have been closed, said Art Hill, a spokesman for the City of Council Bluffs. The bridge, which connects Council Bluffs and Omaha, remains open. Stretches of Indian Creek Trail and Lake Manawa Trail in Council Bluffs also are closed.
Sewer backups: Omaha officials are trying to determine if residents who live in areas other than parts of north and South Omaha are at risk for sewer backups in their basements. Marty Grate, environmental services manager with the Public Works Department, said Wednesday he's working with consultants to determine what neighborhoods, based on historical data, are likely to be vulnerable in the event of heavy rain. So far, officials have identified parts of the city susceptible to backups, especially properties in the low-lying areas near the city's wastewater facility and the Missouri River. Grate hopes to have the information in the next day or two.
Business alert: Members of the Omaha Coalition of Citizen Patrols were handing out fliers Wednesday to businesses in the 11th and Nicholas Streets area, urging them to prepare for standing water. Officials said the area, which is north of Cuming Street, is low-lying and deemed vulnerable by the city's engineering department to surface-pooling waters. Standing water may appear at businesses because recent rains and rising Missouri River floodwaters have left the storm-sewer system full. City officials said they have installed pumps to help relieve the pressure in the sewer system, and additional pumps are on order. Businesses were urged to develop a flood communication and evacuation plan; take steps to remove possessions from basements and low areas; and look for opportunities to protect structures from floodwaters. Dumont said the volunteers received a positive response for their efforts from the businesses.
Jail break: The Iowa Department of Corrections will send six inmates and guards to sandbag near Onawa rest stops along Interstate 29. The inmates will also fill rodent holes in the levees in Mills County.
Key documents: Nebraskans fleeing from their homes amid flooding are being urged to take important documents with them. The state Department of Health and Human Services is urging evacuees to take birth certificates, marriage licenses, Social Security cards and insurance policies with them.
Flood hotline: The Iowa Department of Transportation says its flood hotline is helping motorists navigate around routes closed by flooding. Several stretches of Interstate 29 in western Iowa have been closed. The department says operators are working at the hotline from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The number is 866-452-8510. Road updates are available by calling 511 or going online to http://www.511ia.org.
Kitty's close call: A passer-by retrieved a cat on debris near the Missouri River shoreline, the Nebraska Humane Society said. The cat, nicknamed “Buoy,” had surgery Tuesday to repair a blood clot in his ear. He also suffers from leukemia, so his immune system is compromised, said Pam Wiese, spokeswoman for the Humane Society. Once Buoy is neutered, he will be available for adoption.
Stay away: Those seeking a better view of floodwaters in Council Bluffs' Big Lake Park are trespassing and putting themselves in danger, the Union Pacific Railroad said. Sightseers have been walking down the levee and crossing over the mainline railroad tracks to view floodwaters in the park. They are not only putting themselves in danger but trespassing on railroad property, said U.P. spokesman Mark Davis. The railroad has erected an orange snow fence along the levee and posted no-trespassing signs. Railroad police will issue trespassing tickets to those found on railroad property, Davis said. Council Bluffs police also have installed no parking signs along nearby North Eighth Street, and an orange snow fence has been erected on the north and south sides of the railroad bridge on Big Lake Road.
Museum: The DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge Museum is removing artifacts from the Steamboat Bertrand, which sank in the Missouri River in 1865. More than 200,000 artifacts that were recovered from the sternwheeler usually are on display. The museum in Missouri Valley, Iowa, is in the flood zone and will likely be closed all summer, said Ashley Berkler, spokeswoman for the refuge. Volunteers are not needed to move the artifacts; skilled and trained museum workers are needed to wrap and preserve them for moving. Officials hope to find a museum to temporarily store the items. “In an ideal situation, you would never move a museum collection quite this way,” she said.
Omaha artwork: The organized labor monument at Lewis & Clark Landing has been secured in an attempt to save the artwork from floodwaters. Rising water and rapid currents led Mike Baker, business manager and president of Ironworkers Local 21, and Stu Steffens, the local's president, to wade in and use steel cable to keep the 30-foot-tall monument in place. When the work was done last week, two of the five 8-foot-tall sculptures of laborers already were waist-deep in water.
Camp closed: The YMCA's Camp Pokamoke near Crescent, Iowa, is closed for the summer due to escalating flood concerns on highways surrounding the camp. YMCA of Greater Omaha has been monitoring flooding for about a week, but it made the formal closing decision Tuesday, said Len Romano, president and CEO. Parents can seek refunds or transfer their children to one of 10 Summer Fun Clubs offered by YMCA of Greater Omaha, he said. Camp Pokamoke, which had about 25 staff members and served about 200 children weekly, also evacuated 40 horses.
Casino lots: Two riverboat casinos permanently moored along the Missouri River in Council Bluffs are dealing with floodwater. Mayor Tom Hanafan says parking lots on the west side of the levees at Harrah's and Ameristar are flooded. He says they were expected to flood because of their locations. Other parking lots are free of water. Hanafan says both casinos have engineers on staff to monitor the integrity of the floating casinos as the river rises. He says that if a problem is detected, the casinos will be emptied.
Traffic headache: The Missouri Department of Transportation said significant traffic delays were occurring at the Brownville Bridge across the Missouri River on U.S. Highway 136 due to the closing of Interstate 29 between Hamburg, Iowa, and Rock Port, Mo. Drivers should expect delays of 30 minutes or more. The Brownville Bridge has been narrowed to one lane while repairs are done, and that has significantly slowed traffic. Roads officials are working with contractors to reopen the bridge to two-lane traffic as quickly as possible.
Health worries: The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is advising people in that state to avoid contact with the Missouri River. The Health Department has issued an advisory for all portions of the Missouri River that flow through the state. It advises that the flooding could sweep pathogens from surface water and partially treated sewage into the river. The department is advising people to avoid contact with the river and to restrict pets and livestock from the river until flooding eases, which might not be for weeks. Pathogens can cause skin, ear, respiratory, eye and wound infections, and diarrhea.
Important documents: The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is reminding flood evacuees to take important documents with them. Replacing such documents as birth certificates, marriage licenses, Social Security cards and insurance policies can take time if evacuees don't make sure they're in a safe place.
Levee funds: A U.S. House appropriations panel on Wednesday approved $1 billion in emergency funds to repair levees and other flood control projects damaged by the flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., offset the cost of his amendment by cutting $1 billion in unspent money for high-speed rail projects in President Barack Obama's 2009 economic stimulus measure. The panel approved a $31 billion spending bill funding water projects and Energy Department programs.
Scam alert: Homeowners affected by the flood need to watch out for con artists, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said. Bruning offered tips when considering hiring a contractor, such as getting at least three estimates when possible, asking friends for recommendations and ensuring that a contractor is bonded, licensed and insured. He also cautioned Nebraskans from buying into “bait-and-switch” advertising. Bait-and-switch occurs when goods are offered for a low price, but a salesman then encourages buyers to buy or “switch” to a more expensive item. For more information, contact the Consumer Protection Division at 800-727-6432 or visit www.ago.ne.gov.
— World-Herald staff writers Emily Nohr, Ellen Hirst, Jay Withrow and Maggie O'Brien, with the World-Herald News Service and the Associated Press.