FAIRBURY, NE – The Little Blue River through Fairbury has risen quickly over the last day or so. By Thursday evening, it could reach flood stage at about 18.5 feet before falling back below flood stage Friday.
“It’s basically all over,” Jefferson and Saline County Emergency Manager John McKee said. “The rivers and creeks are bankful, and we’re monitoring them. We’re having some street flooding with the heavy rain we had (Wednesday) morning. With the snow melt, everything is soaked up, and it’s going to take awhile to go away.
The Turkey Creek at Wilber, and the Big Blue at Beatrice, Crete and Dorchester are all forecast to be at minor or moderate flood stage on Thursday. The biggest impact in these areas are being felt on the county roads.
McKee says the greatest area of concern is De Witt – where the Turkey Creek and Big Blue River intersect. According to the National Weather Service, the tributary there was at 26 feet Thursday morning – just a foot below the major flood stage.
“Roads are starting to close,” McKee said. “I foresee, if we continue to get what we’re getting, there’ll be more county roads that will be impassable.
Several roads in Jefferson and the surrounding counties are being closed due to water running over them in low lying areas.
In Seward, Highway 34 near the Parade of Flags has been closed until further notice. Several streets within the city have been closed as well. Crete is facing a similar situation, with Tuxedo Park being shut down for the time being.
The gravel roads have been particularly difficult for families who live on them, and for the bus drivers who take their children to school.
“There’s places where there’s water coming out of the ditches because there’s so much snow in them,” Meridian Public Schools bus driver Charles Houser said. “It’s not a very good experience out on those roads. These are about the worst roads I’ve ever seen since I started bus driving (in 2001).”
Diller-Odell, Crete and Fairbury schools have suspended bus service on gravel roads for the time being. Friend Public had a two-hour late start Wednesday due to road conditions.
“I just deem (driving on gravel roads) as too big of a risk with getting a bus stuck,” Diller-Odell superintendent Mike Meyerle said. “The last thing I want is to have a bus get too close to the side of the road and tip over, or sink. It’s more of a safety issue than anything.
“In my 29 years (at Diller-Odell), this is about the worst I’ve ever seen these roads.”
Thayer County road grater Jay Krehnke says the hope is to reshape gravel roads and get them in a more drivable state by Friday.
Krhenke says the biggest area of concern is the edges of these roads being washed out.
“If it gets dry enough (Friday), we’ll start rebuilding some roads,” Krehnke said. “I don’t know if we’ll start putting rock on yet, though. If we have really deep ruts, we’ll try to fill those in. But, other than that, we’ll just try to reshape the road and make it solid again.”
Another concern with rural patrons on gravel roads is medical attention – and emergency vehicles traveling on near impassable roads.
Jefferson County Highway Supervisor Terry Blas says rescue crews will go where they need to go – he urges people to plan ahead.
“Be as prepared as you can,” he urged. “It’s going to take longer for them to get to these places. Be patient, and if you see an emergency vehicle, give them room to get around you.”
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @Tommy_NCN.