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Water Is Power

The power of water is often misunderstood and underappreciated until its destruction is seen in action. Unfortunately, the Omaha metro and surrounding areas recently got a stark reminder, when a rare winter storm, a “BOMB CYCLONE” hit Nebraska and surrounding states.

As blizzard conditions unleashed in the western part of the state, three inches of rain fell in the east. The “perfect storm” of heavy rains, frozen ground, and snowmelt, resulted in the historic flood of March 2019.

Power of Papio NRD

Inside the Omaha metro area and Papillion Creek Basin Watershed, there was minimal flooding during the Flood of 2019 due to flood mitigation infrastructure the Papio NRD has built over the past four decades.

For example, the levee and channel widening projects on the West Papillion Creek in Sarpy County held the water at baypreventing loss of lives and what could have been hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to public and private property loss. 

Water held in its banks by West Branch Papillion Creek Levee at 84th Street Bridge in Papillion in March 2019.

The flood occurred just weeks before the Papio NRD was to begin federally mandated upgrades to the Missouri River levees. Fortunately, six months later, the Papio NRD, in cooperation and coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), started the levee construction. The project is estimated to be completed by 2021.

(The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is responsible for managing the Missouri River and the Papio NRD operates and maintains over 16 miles of levees along the Missouri River and Papillion Creek.)

Offutt Air Force Base
2019 Flood

Unprecedented Damage

However, the March 2019 flood severely damaged areas outside the Omaha metro area, such as the Missouri River Levee System that protects Offutt Air Force Base, resulting in damages estimated to exceed $1 billion. The nearby Papillion Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and levee system sustained more than $45 million in damage.

Over a half a century ago the story was much different. The flood in 1964 took
7 lives and left an underprepared
Omaha metro in devastation.

84th Street Bridge in Papillion

1964 flood – flood damage and debris at top of bridge

2019 flood – water held in its banks

On June 16 and 17 in 1964, seven people lost their lives and millions of dollars in personal property losses occurred. Ninety-five trailer homes were swept more than a half mile downstream by torrential flooding in the Millard area.
During that storm, eight inches of rain falling for three hours on Hell Creek flowing down from Boys Town into the West Papio Creek created a roaring torrent of water 50 feet wide with waves five feet high. In its wake, houses were moved off their foundations and garages were destroyed.

1964 flood-damaged cars and trucks at former Fishko Chevy dealership in Papillion.

After the flood of 1964, the Papio NRD went to work – building dams and dynamic flood mitigation systems throughout the District to reduce the risk of flooding and mitigate the considerable loss of life and property during future flood events. 
In the Papillion area, levee and channel improvement projects certainly proved themselves, especially in 2019. But more mitigation measures are just around the corner, with two new Flood Mitigation Projects in Sarpy County scheduled to be completed in 2020.