Swelling Missouri prompts disaster declaration


June 2nd, 2011

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Omaha, NE – At a press conference held outside of the city hall offices on Wednesday afternoon, Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle announced that he had signed a disaster declaration for the city of Omaha.

“Let me emphasize to you what that means,” said Suttle. “This is our notice to the public that we expect to incur expenses beyond what is available to us as a city under normal conditions.”

The declaration came as a result of the Missouri River’s increasing water levels and resulting flood damage.
Colonel Bob Ruch, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District, was also on hand to answer questions. Ruch said that by around June 18th, the current 30 foot water level could reach highs of between 34-36 feet, but also says that the levees are designed to be able to withstand the increase.

The Monument to Labor sculpture on the Omaha riverfront was one of the first casualties of the rising Missouri River. (Photo by Josh Korth)

“I’d just like to add there..the incredible investment that this city, the state, and the country has made in putting in the protection system we have, and the risk mitigation factors we have of a 42 foot levee we have here in this city and across in Council Bluffs…. That’s why we made this investment, and it will pay off,” said Ruch. “Looking at many of the cities up and down this system, this system is the envy of them.”

Thus far, areas of Omaha that have been affected the most by the flooding include the Lewis and Clark Landing on the riverfront and NP Dodge Park. Some Nebraska and Iowa homeowners in low-lying areas near the Missouri River have already started evacuating because water has neared their homes. Right now the flooding is affecting mostly farmland.

Levees installed at Lewis and Clark Landing (Photo by Josh Korth)

Despite all this, Suttle stressed the city is taking all the necessary measures to properly deal with the situation. He also encouraged citizens of Omaha to practice caution, but to still enjoy the summer’s activities and welcome visitors to the city- particularly for the College World Series.

“We’re on top of this,” he said. “We’re looking at it pro-actively, we’re engaged…We’ll have plenty of time, there’s no risk to anybody that’s living here right now nor anyone who’s coming as a visitor,” said Suttle. “So come on and enjoy baseball for the … College World Series. We’ll keep the water on that side of the levee, and we’ll keep everybody taken care of, with proper beer and other things, on this side of the levee.”

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