After days of preparation and waiting, floodwaters have risen by about 2 inches and submerged Wood River’s streets since Thursday evening.

Jenie Maloney, president of the Wood River Fire and Rescue Department, said workers on Thursday evening released one of the water berms diverting the water at the intersection of Highway 30 and Cottonwood. She said this pressure release directed the floodwaters away from Highway 30, but down into East 11th Street, otherwise known as Canal Street.

“Our 11th Street is full, but it’s not any fuller than if there was a big rainstorm,” Maloney said. “It’s coming up a little over the curb, but people can still drive through it. That’s what the streets are designed for.”

She said the floodwaters are diverting themselves toward the direction they should follow and this is for the safety of Wood River and Nebraska overall.

“We haven’t given anybody an all-clear yet. Hopefully this afternoon we will be able to remove the sandbags from the streets,” Maloney said Friday.

She said the country roads will take longer to clear up, but “it’s looking positive.”

Maloney said the water diversion created at the intersection on Highway 30 and Cottonwood was doing exactly what the residents intended it to do. Wood River residents felt nervous seeing the flooding in Kearney and Gibbon and placed all their faith in the water diversion.

“We just had so much faith into how this was being done,” she said.

Maloney said the water diversion was initially attempted during the March flooding, but was not set up correctly to sustain the water pressure. After placing cement, sand and mud backing behind the berms this time, the diversion did what the workers intended.

“It was just such relief when it did hit here and so much was going the direction we wanted it to,” she said. “We are glad and positive in how things are altering out.”

Maloney said having the Nebraska Department of Roads clearing the ditches Wednesday was also a lifesaver because the covered ditches were another issue Wood River experienced during the March flooding.

Floodwaters were seen flowing on streets close to Canal Street Friday. Residents on the corner of Marshall and Ninth streets, Patty and Gary Camp were watching the floodwaters traverse along their sidewalk. Patty said the water diversion had saved the town.

The Camps’ house was underwater during the March flooding and is still in recovery. Gary said their entire basement was flooded and their garage was struck by a television swept through March’s floodwaters.

“We are thankful for all the work they’ve put in,” Patty said. “In March, they had no warning.”

They said they probably would have not survived another flooding as uncontrollable as the March deluge.

“This made a huge difference, I’m so thankful,” Patty said.

Maloney said the Fire Department had not had to rescue any residents yet on Friday morning and no residents had taken shelter at the Wood River Rural High School since Thursday.

She said the cooperation of the Wood River community, Mayor Greg Cramer, Central Nebraska Humane Society, the Nebraska Department of Roads and Ashley HomeStore in Grand Island helped the community prepare for the floodwaters.

Maloney said Ashley HomeStore gave three beds for volunteers to use in the Fire Department.

With the previous worries of the Platte River flooding and extending floodwaters, she said the last report said the water is receding and should not impact the current flooding. Once the floodwaters reach Grand Island’s diversion, the water will be a foot and a half lower in comparison to March’s flood.

Maloney said the floodwaters in Shelton had decreased by 3 inches and are expected to continue receding. Although floodwaters have not reached Alda yet, Alda is well prepared for the flood with sandbagging.

“Thank you for having the faith in us in doing what we do,” Maloney said is her message to the community. “The public support is good.”

Natalie Saenz is The Independent's summer intern for 2019. She welcomes news tips and information 24/7!

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