Volunteering: Volunteers have filled about 200,000 sandbags in Omaha to protect public property from flooding. The bagging operations are scheduled to continue on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with shifts from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Amber Miller, administrator of the Omaha Parks Foundation, said companies can send volunteers, as they have in the past week, and people can sign up on their own at the United Way of the Midlands website.
About 130 Mutual of Omaha employees filled bags last week during normal work hours, with Mutual counting their efforts as “community time,” Mutual spokesman Jim Nolan said.
Miller said that through Friday last week, 1,267 volunteers had worked, plus more on Saturday and Sunday.
Disaster push: Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said Monday that a letter signed by the state's House delegation was sent to President Barack Obama asking him to grant Gov. Terry Branstad's request for a major disaster declaration in six western Iowa counties because of Missouri River flooding. If granted, a declaration would trigger release of federal emergency assistance resources for Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, Pottawattamie and Woodbury Counties.
Pump watch: Council Bluffs' stormwater crews are monitoring the Twin Cities pumping station. The station, which covers the storm sewers in the Twin City and Malmore Acres neighborhoods, has had pump problems, but one of its backup pumps is operational after recent repairs.
Moving valuables: Council Bluffs residents are being urged to move valuable items out of basements to higher ground. There have been isolated reports of basement seepage, and with the rainy forecast the next few days, those problems could get worse, city officials said. Seepage is caused by stressed storm sewer systems and ground saturation levels.
More water: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Monday that the Missouri River had risen less than a half foot in the Pierre-Fort Pierre, S.D., area after water releases from Oahe Dam were increased by 10,000 cubic feet per second over the weekend. Releases were at 160,000 cfs as the corps tries to make room for possible heavy rains. Col Bob Ruch, corps district commander in Omaha, said the agency was pleased that there hadn't been more of a rise in the river in the Pierre area. It had gone up about four-tenths of a foot.
Shelters: The Red Cross shelter in Missouri Valley closed Sunday because of a lack of need, but it will remain on standby. There are 24-hour shelters available at Fort Calhoun High School, 1506 Lincoln St. in Fort Calhoun, Neb.; Peru State College's JF Neal Hall, 600 Hoyt St., in Peru, Neb.; and Sidney High School, 2754 Knox Road, in Sidney, Iowa. The shelters offer hot meals, a safe place to rest and minor first aid to flood victims. Pets are not allowed in shelters.
Curfew authority: Pottawattamie County authorities will have the authority to issue a curfew and cite those who do not adhere to an evacuation after a Board of Supervisors vote Monday. The board voted unanimously to approve an ordinance authorizing mandatory evacuation orders and curfew in the event of a civil emergency, such as flooding.
Bluffs schools: The Council Bluffs Community School District has plans to relocate summer school students if necessary because of flooding. School buses would move teachers and students from Franklin Elementary to Washington Elementary, 207 Scott St.
Flooded out: While most area residents were still waiting to see whether floodwaters would reach them, 143 Pottawattamie County homes already have been evacuated, according to an update released by Gov. Terry Branstad's office Monday. More than 300 people have been evacuated in Fremont County, and 200 to 300 people in Harrison County, the report said.
EPA advice: Residents in potential flood areas are urged to move or secure common household items that could be hazardous. The Environmental Protection Agency has a checklist online at http://www.epa.gov/region7/factsheets/2011/pre_flood_haz_waste_checklist.htm that includes the obvious — such as propane tanks and lighter fluid — and the mundane — such as batteries, insect spray and toilet cleaners. The goal is to prevent items from polluting water or becoming hazardous waste.
Sand shortage: The supply of sand used to fill hundreds of thousands of bags needed to fight off the swollen Missouri River is running low after weeks of relentless flooding. It's a problem that could get worse as the river is expected to remain high through August, making it unsafe to gather sand from the easiest place to get it: the river itself. The Army Corps of Engineers is monitoring the sand supply, said Jud Kneuvean, chief of emergency management for the corps' Kansas City District. He said a ton of sand produces about 60 sandbags.
THE RUMOR MILL
Rumor: Council Bluffs officials said Monday that they are receiving reports of rumors that the city is under an alert level for flooding.
Fact: “At this time, this is false,” the city said in a statement. However, the alert level can change quickly, and officials are urging residents to be prepared. Changes to alert levels will be announced through official channels using the Code Red emergency notification system, the emergency alert system on television and radio, through the metro-area media outlets and through the city's Facebook page. To register for Code Red and receive notifications, go to the City of Council Bluffs' web page at http://www.councilbluffs-ia.gov/ and click on the Code Red link. For those without Internet access, registrations can be taken by phone at (712) 328-4672.
— World-Herald staff writers Sam Womack, Steve Jordon, Michael Holmes and Larry Sparks, with the Associated Press and the World-Herald News Service