The North Bend Eagle



An oral history of the North Bend Flood of 2019

by Nathan Arneal
Published 4/3/19

There are thousands of stories to share and hundreds of people who played key roles in the drama that was the North Bend Flood of 2019. What follows is a small sliver of those stories, told by the people who lived them in their own words.

Monday, March 11

Waylon Fischer: The Dodge County Emergency Manager was in Columbus that Monday and let me know what they were dealing with. They said they had a very big ice jam in Columbus, miles long. They said when that broke loose, that would raise our water level. They predicted a 10-foot rise, which I think ended up being a 5-foot rise.

Charity Ladehoff: Our neighbor at McGinn’s Lake, Jimmy Lewis – he was monitoring the river, I guess – told us that up in Columbus, their ice and water were starting to break. We were told to pick up our things, save what you want.

Tuesday, March 12

Ladehoff: Tuesday we went out into our garage and put stuff up on picnic tables and brought our big stuff inside. I thought it was just precaution. I didn’t think it was going to flood, really.

Fischer: I was told by (city clerk) Theresa Busse that the mayor was calling an emergency meeting. We talked about the plan, about who was going to do what. The fire department was going to take care of monitoring the dike and monitoring the river.

Dan Endorf: The city council meeting on Tuesday night was vital to helping those in attendance understand that a flood may be imminent. It certainly raised my level of awareness. The old timers talking about the flood of ‘60 and ‘79 made me realize this can happen in North Bend. They talked about communication with the town. That’s when I offered Tiger Talk services, because it’s a pretty slick piece of technology. (Tiger Talk is a message system that goes to the phones of NBC parents or anyone else who has signed up for it.)

Nathan Arneal: I have a college buddy who lives in Snyder and works in Fremont who stayed with me Tuesday night. He couldn’t get home because of all the flooding to the north.

Sandbagging Day
Wednesday, March 13

Endorf: When I got up early to check roads on Wednesday, I could feel the water creeping into our district. At a quarter to 5 Wednesday morning, it was obvious. In town there was a ton of water in places that I hadn’t seen it in my previous nine years. Cancelling school that day was a rather easy decision. I told NBC staff if you can get here, come here and wear blue jeans and work boots because we’re bagging sand. Maybe that was a bit presumptuous on my part to ask our staff to do that when the flood was way downstream, but that Tuesday night meeting opened my eyes to the possibilities that the high water might bring.

Arneal: I was running around Wednesday, taking pictures of the sandbagging effort for the paper. At the time, I thought that would be the big story of the week. It all seemed like it would just be precautionary.

Fischer: That Platte was looking OK, but the big jams weren’t broke. I thought it was going to be OK. I thought the levees were going to hold. I knew McGinn’s Lake, which has no dike, was going to be flooded. On Wednesday I requested a voluntary evacuation of McGinn’s Lake. By Thursday night, they were flooded.

Endorf: I believe I heard ice hitting the 79 bridge from my house Wednesday night. It sounded like two rail cars bumping into each other. I knew that was a sound I was unfamiliar with. This was real.

Thursday, March 14

Ladehoff: Thursday morning we’re driving around on our four wheelers looking at the river and stuff. The river was very, very high. It was up to the road that runs along the river, and that’s usually a 12-foot drop to the water.

Fischer: On Thursday, the Platte River was flowing really hard. It threw ice up and knocked over the device that reads the water level. That river was roaring. It had whitecaps. I’ve never seen the river act like that before.

Endorf: Thursday was a lot of nervous energy. I vividly remember the call from Ken Streff saying the ice jam had loosened from west and the title wave coming down the Platte was just going to be high water, not a flood. I happen to be at Frontier sandbagging at that time, and I made an announcement to those people that it appears the worst was past us and that the ice jam had loosened.

Ladehoff: Thursday afternoon we got a call that said if you have your kids, you need to leave McGinn’s Lake. The fire department said they won’t make attempts to come rescue because it would be too dangerous. We were like, what are you talking about?

Fischer: The water got high enough to breach the (cutoff ditch) levee. At that point, we knew the lake developments, Pioneer Lake, Riverview Shores, Willow Wood, all those houses would be flooded. On Thursday afternoon we sent the word out for a voluntary evacuation of those areas.

Ladehoff: We packed the kids up, took a bag and drove through the water. There was six of us in this little S-10 pickup. It was crazy. You couldn’t even leave North Bend really. Highway 30 was closed. 79 was closed. Most of the businesses were closed. We went to the Corner Cafe about 1:30 and hung out for 45 minutes or so. Once Highway 30 opened up, we went to Fremont and dropped our kids off, then we drove back out to McGinn’s Lake and by that point the water is touching the bottom of the bridge over the cutoff ditch into McGinn’s. There was maybe six inches left that you could see of the bank. The cornfield southwest of the cutoff ditch toward our house was completely covered with water. It was flowing. It was like an ocean. You couldn’t see anything but water. Our neighbor Steve has a camper out there. We were looking through the binoculars and you could see the water hitting the camper, splashing off of it. You couldn’t see the tires, so there was probably already four feet of water. It was a complete ocean.

Flood Day
Friday, March 15

Ken Streff: The cutoff ditch levee, 3.5 miles west of North Bend, gave throughout the night. Jeremy and I saw it give about 1 or 2 a.m. Friday.

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