South Platte repeats 1965 flooding performance

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Nebraskans have observed the Colorado flooding with detached concern, but their worries are about to become reality, at least if they live along the South Platte River.

Virtually all of the creeks mentioned in reports of last week's flooding shared something in comon -- they drain into the South Platte River.

National Weather Service officials are warning that there will be flooding, but they're not entirely sure how bad it will be, because a number of river gauges were damaged by debris.

A coordinating team from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency is already in Ogallala to help local officials, and the American Red Cross is ready to find housing for displaced residents, if needed.

Flood stage is 9 feet at Roscoe, east of Ogallala, and water is likely to reach 12.5 feet Thursday or Friday.

Interstate 80 was under construction the last time the South Platte flooded, in 1965, so it's hard to predict exactly how bad this year's flooding will be.

Those who remember that flood, however, won't be surprised if there are problems farther down stream in North Platte, where they watched with concern as new houses were built in recent years on the banks of the river.

A 300-resident senior center may also have to be evacuated in North Platte, where the waters are predicted to reach 13.5 feet on Saturday.

Perhaps it's not unreasonable to build in flood plains, if those floods occur only every 50 years or so, but we shouldn't be surprised when Mother Nature makes a repeat performance.

The Iron Eagle golf course has been plagued with flooding troubles since it was built a few years ago, proving that old-timers are entitled to a few "I-told-you-so's."

We should also pay our respects to Gazette founder Harry Strunk and others who struggled to have flood control and irrigation dams built along the Republican River to prevent a repeat of the 1935 flood.

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