Emergency managers in eastern Nebraska will be watching the Platte and Elkhorn Rivers this weekend to look out for new ice jams and make sure that existing ones don’t cause more trouble than they already have.
Paul Fajman, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Valley, said no flooding reports have come in as of 9:15 a.m. Saturday, but they are monitoring Schuyler and Fremont.
He said Dodge County emergency managers reported water on Big Island Road in Fremont at 6:45 p.m. Friday, and people living in the area have left.
An ice jam in the Platte caused the river to leave its banks south of Schuyler early Friday, prompting the closing of a highway into town.
The north road to Lake Socorro was cut off, said Colfax County Attorney Denise Kracl. About 40 people live along the lake year-round, she said.
A flood warning for the Platte River in the area was extended until Saturday because of the ice jam.
The stretch of Nebraska Highway 15 south of Schuyler that goes over the Platte was closed about 6:45 a.m. Friday. The highway remained closed Friday afternoon.
Kracl said the river water was working its way up Highway 15 toward Schuyler, but a large park on the south end of town could hold some water, and an area creek could help carry water away. There’s no talk of sandbagging “at this time,” she said.
Schuyler is about 75 miles west of Omaha.
National Weather Service meteorologist Van DeWald said ice that came down from the Loup River near Columbus dumped into the Platte and caused the Friday morning flooding.
A flood watch will remain in effect throughout the weekend along the Platte, Elkhorn and Loup Rivers in eastern Nebraska, the weather service said. Higher temperatures leading to the melting of ice and snow will cause ice to break up on the rivers, “which may increase the threat for ice jams and subsequent flooding,” forecasters said. “Low-lying areas along the rivers are most at risk for flooding.”
Highs on Saturday are expected to be in the low 50s.
A mix of rain and snow is possible Saturday night and Sunday morning, mostly in northeast Nebraska, forecasters said. Omaha has a 30% chance of getting rain Saturday and Saturday night.
Officials are also monitoring an ice jam at the U.S. Highway 77 bridge near Fremont that continues 2 to 3 miles upstream. Water levels have subsided since the ice jam formed Jan. 29, officials said.
DeWald said stream flows are considered normal along the Elkhorn and are slightly elevated on the Platte. But Missouri River levels are near record lows, he said.
DeWald said conditions are not the same as they were in 2019, when river levels across eastern Nebraska reached record highs, and flooding caused billions of dollars in damage to homes, roads, bridges and livestock operations in Nebraska and Iowa.
“This is a completely different situation,” he said. “But people that do live along the Platte and Elkhorn Rivers need to be vigilant.”
The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District measured the thickness of the ice at the Nebraska Highway 64 bridge over the Platte River west of Valley on Wednesday. The ice was 12 inches thick at that time, down from 15 inches the previous week. The slow melting has created more open channels and free-flowing water in some areas, the NRD said.
“The ideal situation,” DeWald said, “would be for this ice to melt and float on down the stream and make it to the Missouri.”