Several animals at Bellevue’s Gifford Farm were unaccounted for Friday afternoon after floodwaters overtook the outdoor educational center east of Fontenelle Forest.
The animals’ deaths haven’t been confirmed, according to Kelly Taylor, office manager for the farm — some employees are hoping the animals found higher ground or went deeper into the nearby forest — but it’s possible they perished in the waters.
“It is our suspicion, but it is not confirmed,” Taylor said of the possible deaths of a llama, a donkey, a miniature horse, a sheep, two ponies and three goats.
Those nine animals represented a mix of farm-owned animals and private animals that were being boarded on the land, Taylor said.
Rapidly rising river levels Friday were of concern across Sarpy County, which was declared to be in a state of emergency Wednesday. The Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office urged residents near the Missouri and Platte Rivers to evacuate their homes.
The evacuation zone included about 2,600 people, according to a county press release. Those who have evacuated should expect to be displaced until at least Sunday, unless conditions improve sooner.
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Residents in the Green Acres and Paradise Lake trailer parks east of Offutt Air Force Base were encouraged to evacuate. Bellevue police officers and firefighters went door to door Friday to prompt residents to leave the area.
The Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office had blocked access to a number of areas: Beacon View, Linoma Beach, Thomas Riverside Acres, Sands Trailer Court, Villa Springs, Hawaiian Village, La Platte, Chris Lake and all Hanson Lakes.
The Missouri River breached a levee between Offutt Air Force Base and Plattsmouth, near the area of Harlan Lewis and La Platte, the Sheriff’s Office said. The Platte River was out of its north bank and forcing water over Cottonwood Road in Villa Springs, which is southeast of Springfield, according to deputies.
“We are evacuating several different areas — to include Villa Springs — and we’re asking people to get their belongings and leave,” Davis said. “Same in the area of Hawaiian Village. We’ve already evacuated portions of Hanson’s Lake.”
Officials said it may appear to people who live in an area that borders those rivers that the water might not reach them. However, water can and has been washing over surrounding roadways, cutting off the ability to enter and exit living areas.
Drivers and pedestrians should not attempt to navigate barricaded or flooded roads. Roads covered with standing or running water can be reported to the Sarpy County Emergency Communications Center’s non-emergency number at 402-593-4111.
An evacuee reception center opened at 1 p.m. at Lifegate Church, 749 Pinnacle Drive in Papillion. It will be open until 8 p.m.
Papillion Mayor David Black wrote on Twitter that those displaced by flooding can receive a special rate at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, 465 Olson Drive, by calling the hotel at 402-932-2700 and asking for the flood rate.
Flooding at Gifford Farm began Wednesday, when employees noticed rising water nearby. By that night, the farm was able to rescue its baby animals and exotic animals, including reptiles and amphibians.
The flooding increased overnight Wednesday, Taylor said.
”In less than 12 hours, (water) covered it to where it was hard to get on (the farm),” she said.
At that point, employees had to direct horses through standing water to evacuate the animals.
The farm was hit hard by major flooding in 2011. From June to September that year, rooftops were all that could be seen of the farm’s structures.
The county will conduct pre-scheduled tests on outdoor warning sirens at 10 and 10:30 a.m. Saturday.