Saturday, June 4, 2011

The River's A'Rising!

“There are two big forces at work, external and internal. We have very little control over external forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness and pain. What really matters is the internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I have complete control.”

Leo Buscaglia

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When I arrived at work on Tuesday morning of this week, I was greeted by a flurry of activity from other staff members of the church, community members, and church family members.  The warning had gone out on Monday afternoon--if you live along the Missouri River, get out--NOW!  Those along the river here in southeast Nebraska and southwest Iowa had until Friday (yesterday) to remove anything they wanted to get and leave the premises.  Families were helping families, friends were helping friends, people who didn't even know each other were offering assistance to pack boxes, load horse trailers and pickups, RV's and cars.  The church has a little house that we've tried to sell.  It is now being used as a shelter.  PODS and trailers are being brought in and placed in parking lots so that people have some place to store their possessions.

I lived in Nebraska during the big flood of 1993, but at most, I was inconvenienced in my travels south to visit my parents.  Certainly, there was water in the fields and I heard the news stories of families who refused to leave, of those who lost everything, and of those who came back and started all over again, but this time, this flood is touching very close to home (literally, about 25 blocks from my house).  I will not be affected personally by the flooding.  The Nebraska side of the river is blessed with many steep bluffs which protect the majority of the town from the water, but there will be parts of town well under water.  Some already are. 

I took a little drive on Thursday after hearing about it.  I was told that I should drive over to the bluffs and just see it.  Where there has always been a very distinct river way and banks, there is just water--everywhere, seeping into the fields, the homes, the farms-everywhere.  The highway on the south edge of town that leads east into Iowa was covered with water on one side.  The word was that by this weekend it would probably be closed.  The truck stop, motels, and antique shop just west of the interstate have all been closed, the pumps removed, the antiques removed, and loads and loads of dirt moved in around each of the buildings in an effort to keep the water out.  The interstate will be closed through parts of Iowas and Missouri.  Several small communities are closing down, entirely.  The estimates are there will be as much as ten feet of water over many of them and it will no longer be safe to be there.  Sewage systems upriver toward Council Bluffs and Omaha have been breached so those of us further downstream have been urged to stay away from the water.

Here in Nebraska City, the marina is gone.  The water was so high on Thursday that I couldn't get any closer than the gateway that leads  down to it.  The grain elevator and operation that sits next to the river has a parking lot full of water.  They tell us the water will rise halfway up the three story building before it's all done.  The grain has been moved.  The trains that run through our town every few hours have stopped; they can't get through here anymore.  I miss their whistles already.  A friend who farms south of town, tells me that he's had water over part of his farm since the end of April and it's still coming.

And we're just beginning.  This water is from dams that have been opened in the Dakotas.  At this point they're moving 70,000 cubic feet of water per second.  The plan is to increase that to 130,000 cubic feet per second by Tuesday and to 150,000 cubic feet by the end of the month.  We haven't even begun to see the impact of the snow melt in addition to this yet.  They're still having BIG snowfalls in the mountains and up north of us. 

These families, these people, are being told to plan on being out of their homes for many, many months, possibly until Christmas, as the water continues to come from the reservoirs.  The thing that is just amazing to me is the massive area this is affecting.  It's not just southeast Nebraska.  It is the entire eastern side of Nebraska, into Iowa, Missouri, Kansas.  There is talk that reservoirs in Wyoming and Colorado will also release water which flows into our rivers. 

For a part of the country that has been pretty devastated by the economic downturn, this latest turn of events could be the final blow.  On September 11, 2001 we all watched as over a period of a few hours our lives were changed.  While this devastation is not the speedy blow of that day, it is more like a scene in slow motion.  We know bad things are happening but all we can do is stand back and watch. 

Everyone is worrying-- and praying.  Isn't it amazing, we human beings think we're so smart, so capable.  We place God on the back burner and trust that we have everything under control.  And then here we are.  You can bet that EVERYONE is moving God to front and center right now!  One of my kiddos asked me the other day just why God lets things like this happen; an age old question.  My answer:  God made man with a brain to make choices for himself.  If he stepped in to every situation to 'fix it' for us, then what would be the point of giving us the brain.  We could be like all the other animals.  He lets us make our own choices which may lead us to good things or to bad things.  These are called consequences.  Hopefully, we learn from all of the consequences, but this I know for certain.  Through it all, God is always right there with us, ready to love us, ready to support us, ready to carry us when we cannot carry ourselves anymore. 

He is here.  I've seen Him at work this week in so many different places and faces.  He did not create THIS flood, but He is here with us in it.  And He'll be here each day until all is restored again, however long that takes.  We will survive this flood and hopefully, we will be better because we will have learned lessons from it.  Just one step at a foot in front of the other.  Just doing what we've got to do.

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Emergency Management Director Mike Crecelius addressed a crowd of about 300 people May 31 at the Hamburg fire house.
from Nebraska City News Press, June 1, 2011

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