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Sun Mar 17, 2019, 10:15 AM

11-foot wall of water: One dam breaks, three counties suffer

Lincoln Journal Star



Earlier, the Niobrara had been running at 5 or 6 feet of gauge height. After it broke through the dam, it measured nearly 17.5 feet. It wasn’t a gradual increase, either.

“It started a really fast rise,” he said. “There was an 11-foot wave that rolled through.”

And in its wake, three Nebraska counties would learn how that much moving water can become immediately destructive and potentially deadly. How it can cause instant pain and long-term suffering. How it can harm not only those in its path, but those living miles away.

First, the wave swept away a section of U.S. 281, a nearby riverside saloon and at least one home, possibly occupied. And it continued downstream, barreling toward the town of Niobrara — and its mouth at the Missouri River — about 40 miles away.

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Reply 11-foot wall of water: One dam breaks, three counties suffer (Original post)
Algernon Moncrieff Mar 2019 OP
hatrack Mar 2019 #1
Algernon Moncrieff Mar 2019 #4
Wellstone ruled Mar 2019 #7
ewagner Mar 2019 #11
IthinkThereforeIAM Mar 2019 #17
hatrack Mar 2019 #24
Sherman A1 Mar 2019 #2
WhiteTara Mar 2019 #3
malaise Mar 2019 #5
Algernon Moncrieff Mar 2019 #15
malaise Mar 2019 #22
Algernon Moncrieff Mar 2019 #46
Ms. Toad Mar 2019 #21
malaise Mar 2019 #28
Ms. Toad Mar 2019 #31
malaise Mar 2019 #38
PatSeg Mar 2019 #6
Botany Mar 2019 #13
PatSeg Mar 2019 #18
Hekate Mar 2019 #33
PatSeg Mar 2019 #37
malaise Mar 2019 #39
PatSeg Mar 2019 #40
MyOwnPeace Mar 2019 #8
PatSeg Mar 2019 #19
KY_EnviroGuy Mar 2019 #9
erronis Mar 2019 #12
KY_EnviroGuy Mar 2019 #30
Igel Mar 2019 #27
KY_EnviroGuy Mar 2019 #34
Hermit-The-Prog Mar 2019 #10
SCVDem Mar 2019 #14
MyOwnPeace Mar 2019 #23
B Stieg Mar 2019 #16
ancianita Mar 2019 #20
Ms. Toad Mar 2019 #35
ancianita Mar 2019 #41
Ms. Toad Mar 2019 #45
Algernon Moncrieff Mar 2019 #48
Algernon Moncrieff Mar 2019 #47
Pepsidog Mar 2019 #25
Hortensis Mar 2019 #26
Ms. Toad Mar 2019 #29
Sunlei Mar 2019 #32
hatrack Mar 2019 #36
Sunlei Mar 2019 #43
frogmarch Mar 2019 #42
Sunlei Mar 2019 #44

Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 10:18 AM

1. That dam isn't "breached" - it's freaking gone . . .

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Response to hatrack (Reply #1)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 10:34 AM

4. My family is good, but we are 10 minutes drive from towns that are currently underwater.

For the past two days, Fremont, NE has essentially been cut off. Valley and Waterloo (these are all towns just to the west and north of Omaha) are completely or partially under water. Further south, on the Iowa side, dikes have been breached and lowlands are flooding. Columbus Nebraska has been badly hit by flooding, and the article talks about the Niobrara on the north side of the state. The good news is that no rain is in the immediate forecast; the worst of the ice damming is gone, and most of our snow has melted. The bad news is that water levels are high; more rain is predicted later in the month, and snow has yet to melt in Montana and the Dakotas. Water is being released into the Missouri from Gavins Point Dam in Yankton - so this could be an on-again/off-again issue for a while.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Reply #4)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 11:42 AM

7. Good to hear you Rellies are safe.

 

Know the area well,usually spend a afternoon each summer just walking the Camp Grounds. One of the most peaceful spots on Earth.

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Response to Wellstone ruled (Reply #7)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:14 PM

11. +1

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Response to Wellstone ruled (Reply #7)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:41 PM

17. +1...


... My hometown gang and I would camp out there the weekend before finals for a few years. It rained every time...

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Reply #4)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:03 PM

24. Heading into Kansas City yesterday, one of the traffic alert signs:

"I-29 CLOSED IN IOWA USE I-35"

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 10:26 AM

2. Wow 😮

Just 😮

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 10:30 AM

3. Stay safe to all those who live along the river

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 10:49 AM

5. Is that snow and water?

Damn!

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Response to malaise (Reply #5)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:27 PM

15. And ice

Ice has been a contributor in all of this.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Reply #15)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:59 PM

22. OmahaSteve posted about heavy snow in Nebraska but I had no idea

it would be this bad

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Response to malaise (Reply #22)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 08:26 PM

46. There was a bunch of snow, and then warmer rain hit and it all melted...

...in Eastern Nebraska. In Central Nebraska, the same storm brought blizzard conditions.

It was a top 10 record year for snow in our area.

For the lurker climate change skeptics - it's easy to scoff at "warming" when you get record snow, but the takeaway needs to be that weather is becoming more extreme. Those swings to extremes will create cycles of floods and droughts; more extreme spring and fall seasons (tornadoes and hail) and more hurricanes. In the near term, P & C rates will soar (and deductibles will rise), and building codes will need to get way stricter to deal with that. Long term, if we don't get off fossil fuel, we'll die. Maybe not in 50 years; maybe not in a century - but way sooner than we should.

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Response to malaise (Reply #5)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:57 PM

21. Both.

On Thursday, the western 1/3 part of the state was shut down due to a blinding blizzard, the eastern 2/3 was shut down due to flooding.

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Response to Ms. Toad (Reply #21)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:09 PM

28. Wow! n/t

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Response to malaise (Reply #28)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:18 PM

31. These are the travel restrictions today

https://lb.511.nebraska.gov/nelb/truckreports/routeselect.jsf;jsessionid=KNoBJvc1pnvMUc0PWnWWRw_B6LT2gjhglEsNxBp8.ip-10-4-74-68?view=state&text=m&textOnly=false¤t=true

On Thursday, the entire state looked like the eastern 1/3 does now (3 days later). When you hovered over the closing symbols, you could find winter storm closings adjacent to flooding closures.

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Response to Ms. Toad (Reply #31)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 02:04 PM

38. I imagine that schools will be closed tomorrow

This is horrific

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 11:22 AM

6. Good lord

Its like the dam is made of Legos. It feels like our entire country is crumbling both physically and metaphorically.

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Response to PatSeg (Reply #6)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:21 PM

13. It looks like the dam was well made but all dams have a lifetime and God only knows how many ...

.... millions of tons of silt and mud built up on the upstream side of the dam over 90 years and that along
with all the water must have exerted major pressure on the dam and it failed.

points:

Did the damn have emergency spillways? And how come they didn't relief the pressure on the dam.

They might consider not rebuilding the dam and just let the Niobrara River be a river?

BTW these points and ideas are written by somebody who is 600 miles + away and
is not familiar with all the factors that led to the dam's failure.

*****

Looks like they have been evacuating the downstream side of the dam for the past 2 days.

http://sandhillsexpress.com/local-news/spencer-dam-on-the-niobrara-river-is-compromised/

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Response to Botany (Reply #13)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:54 PM

18. So much of what people build

looks so solid and substantial, but nature can wipe it away in hours or minutes, much like destroying an anthill. Very fascinating and humbling.

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Response to PatSeg (Reply #6)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:26 PM

33. Yes it does seem like that. After the fires it felt like Mother Nature was trying to sweep us away.n

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Response to Hekate (Reply #33)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:37 PM

37. It often does feel like that some times

Can't blame Mother Nature, we are hardly good tenants.

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Response to PatSeg (Reply #37)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 02:06 PM

39. And that's the absolute truth

We are not kind or gentle to this beautiful planet - we loot, plunder and destroy with total indifference

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Response to malaise (Reply #39)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 03:15 PM

40. It is so sad

As humans, we think we are a superior species, but we cause more harm to our own home and ourselves than any other. And the very religious like to believe we are created in God's image? If there is a god, I'm sure she is not amused.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:01 PM

8. 90 years old?

I'm sure all of those people in the downstream area will feel a whole lot safer when IQ45 gets that wall built - 1000 miles away.

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Response to MyOwnPeace (Reply #8)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:55 PM

19. But, but, but

the wall will protect them from the flood of brown people bringing crime and drugs!

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:03 PM

9. Info and history on the Spencer Dam

From the posted article:

Despite its age, the Spencer Dam was still functional, and valuable.

Built in the late 1920s and owned by the Nebraska Public Power District since the early 1970s, it could still generate electricity when the utility needed it.

And it was in transition. NPPD was in the process of selling the dam, and its easements and water rights, to several northern Nebraska natural resources districts for $9 million, said utility spokesman Mark Becker.

He wasn't sure where the deal stood after its failure, he said. And NPPD didn't yet know why Spencer Dam failed, though a helicopter carried a crew to the site Friday to examine what remained.

It was a flow-through hydroelectric dam, with garage-type doors that let water through, and Becker said it wasn't known whether the doors had been open or closed at the time. They disappeared downstream, he said.

A little history here:

Niobrara River
Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niobrara_River
(includes a photo of the dam during normal times)
(snip)
Spencer Dam, about 50 miles (80 km) from the mouth of the Niobrara, was the last operational hydroelectric plant on the river. The dam was built in 1927 and was operated by the Nebraska Public Power District. It includes two Westinghouse generators, with a combined capacity of 3,000 KW. In a 2015 agreement with Nebraska local and state government entities, NPPD agreed to decommission the dam in 2017. The dam was breached by flooding caused by a March 2019 storm.

Don't know how that reservoir was used, but beyond the horrible immediate damage downstream, one would think this failure may affect farm irrigation water supply as well as the public water supply to many towns on the river. Considering its age, the dam is probably a total loss.

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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Reply #9)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:18 PM

12. Thanks for the link/add'l info. I worry that many of our existing dams and other structures will be

susceptible to critical events as the climate changes. (Of course, no worries for those that like the flood plains of Florida.)

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Response to erronis (Reply #12)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:16 PM

30. Yes, and the bill for this one will be huge....

as many bridges, highways and water systems are being damaged. Insurance rates will be going up and up with climate change.

This will be an interesting case to follow, as this is mostly isolated to Nebraska's interests. The article said this dam is owned by an electric utility.

It would be interesting to see an overview of the condition of all the Army Corps of Engineers facilities on the Missouri, Ohio and Mississippi river systems. I fear that would be frightening to see.

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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Reply #9)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:07 PM

27. Not much there to lose.

And given the public mood for decommissioning (and not replacing) hydroelectric plants, it's unlikely it would have been rebuilt.

At some point somebody would have come along and brought the dam down after draining it. Or perhaps it would have been "blessed" by a natural resources group because it provided wetlands or lay-over space for migratory birds.

But it was one of the many private dams in the country; many younger people, esp. those who were born and raised in cities or suburbs, don't realize that a lot of infrastructure wasn't built by the federal government. Some were local public/private partnerships, some local and public (with organizations formed just for building the dam or towns/counties that responded to local needs). Some were purely private endeavors, and often in the Depression or afterwards those private organizations went bankrupt or simply dissolved; or they're too poor now to do anything but routine maintenance.


Many sources say the Spencer dam didn't die from (liquid) water alone but because of ice. I've lived near large bodies of water that froze over and yet had piers and docks, sometimes shipping terminals. They survived hurricanes and large-scale flooding with minimal damage; the terminal could be under 4 feet of water and everything's recoverable fairly quickly. But when the Bay or lake froze over, the wind would cause the 6" or 10" sheets to overlap, freeze in place, and form thick layers. You get a piece of ice 2 miles across and 2' thick moving and it'll do damage the likes of which tidal surge a mere 4' deep over land could only fantasize about. The Spencer dam may not have have a surface area and ice mass that big, but if a big chunk of ice was pounded against 90-year-old concrete ...

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Response to Igel (Reply #27)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:26 PM

34. Hadn't thought about the momentum of those massive ice sheets.

That would certainly do the damage. And, if I'm interpreting the photos correctly, the gate panels on this dam were made of timbers.

I saw quite a number of those small dams in passing during my work in field service. As you said, many were built with private funds for mills, factories and power plants and many are still being used.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:12 PM

10. massive damage

A lot of people are suffering there.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:25 PM

14. We haven't repaired any

 

Infrastructure which didn't fail first.

Then dump pulls any federal aid. See the Oroville spillway repairs.

But crooked Hillary ........

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Response to SCVDem (Reply #14)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:03 PM

23. What "infrastructure?"

Don't you see - our biggest problem was those e-mails!

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:36 PM

16. Infrastructure week?

That should fix things up.
This "president" has deconstructed everything...

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 12:56 PM

20. Voting Republican has consequences. What say, Mr Buffett?

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Response to ancianita (Reply #20)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:31 PM

35. Did you make snide comments about Puerto Rico, NOLA, Manhattan?

Or - more likely - you were outraged when Repbulicans suggested Katrina was God's punishment for being a wicked city.

Mother nature does not choose her victims based on their politics. There are Nebraskans on DU, and others (like me) who grew up there and still have dozens of relatives and friends there, who are suffering. How about not copying the worst Republican behavior.

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Response to Ms. Toad (Reply #35)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 03:30 PM

41. Hell, no. I love Puerto Rico,NOLA and all of New York. Why would you think that. This is about human

Last edited Sun Mar 17, 2019, 05:14 PM - Edit history (2)

neglect of the state's infrastructure which couldn't handle the cascading effects of climate change. Accept, first, that there's no more normal mother nature and, second, that most of the dams in Nebraska were built before 1950, a couple in the 19th century, then what follows is ...

... what I think Mr. Buffett, the Republican governor and ACE should be thinking. "There is no more normal in flooding. We therefore have to strengthen standing dams and build new ones at 5+ times their previous stress capabilities. And so we (Mr. Buffett and Mr. Ricketts) are going to contribute funds toward those standards, with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers."

My message is to the Republicans there like Buffet and the Ricketts' son, the governor of Nebraska, so that they know that the rest of Nebraska can no longer afford to maintain their ruling party's austerity economics.

Of course I feel for ALL Nebraskans. I'm an American. Of course I'm aware that Democratic Nebraskans are on DU. It's our shared political discussion website and this is the Breaking News Forum. You think this situation doesn't underscore how right their politics have been, and that they, more than most, know the unfortunate hand they've been dealt? That much climate disaster can be prevented by humans?

I think you know that. Yet you act as if I'm not a "true" Democrat here, that this disaster excludes any points raised about the politics of spending in NE that could prevent this. Don't make this personal. I don't. Decisions have to be made now by the rich and powerful there.










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Response to ancianita (Reply #41)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 06:33 PM

45. When you make the same kind of comments about Nebraska that we condemn when

Republicans make them about other areas in which natural disasters occur, I'm not making it personal - it is personal to anyone with ties to that area. Just as similar statements were for anyone with friends and relatvies in Puerto Rico, NOLA, or Manhattan when the Republicans made similar politically motivated comments about those natural disasters.

I'm not suggesting you are not a "true" Democrat - I am suggesting that it is inappropriate in the wake of any natural disaster to make politically motivated statements about the victims or the area (a statement that is unrelated to politcal affiliation)

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Response to ancianita (Reply #41)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 08:34 PM

48. Don't conflate Buffett and Rickets

Joe Ricketts is a major player in hard right GOP politics. He's very Catholic, and (as recent news stories indicate), a racist. His son is being groomed to become Senator and hence the family representative in Washington.

Warren Buffett plans to endow the vast majority of his wealth to charity and encourages other tycoons to do the same.

Buffett is a Democrat and supported Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. His business partner, Charlie Munger, is a Republican who has expressed disdain for Trump.

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Response to ancianita (Reply #20)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 08:29 PM

47. Warren Buffet supported Hillary Clinton

He's fiscally conservative but socially fairly liberal.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:06 PM

25. Sorry to hear. Please don't ask the Federal Government for help that would look like socialism.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:07 PM

26. Thanks for posting, and from a local source.

This coverage shows how valuable it is for this kind of thing. Hope no one was still in those buildings.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:26 PM

32. wow look at all the silt buildup at the base of the dam.water pressure snapped upper supports

all our infrastructure is very old

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Response to Sunlei (Reply #32)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 01:35 PM

36. The Niobrara rises in the Sandhills . . .

I've kayaked it - the entire river bubbles and boils with sand and silt. Beautiful river, with very heavy water (so to speak).

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Response to hatrack (Reply #36)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 06:04 PM

43. hills of sand and about 60'down is 20' of volcanic ash :P

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 04:06 PM

42. One of my granddaughters and her husband and

children live in Fremont and evacuated yesterday because their house flooded. What saddens them more than losing belongings is that their beloved potbellied pig Marshmallow drowned. He was outside, where he preferred to be once he grew up (and out), and when the water rose, he got scared and huddled in his outdoor house. They couldn't coax him to come to them and they couldn't drag him. Now he is gone.

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Response to frogmarch (Reply #42)

Sun Mar 17, 2019, 06:11 PM

44. So sorry about Marshmallow, there wasn't much warning for people to evac.

When Harvey dumped 50 inches of rain on the Houston Area a dam was over topped and some people I know had 8 feet of water in their homes within one hour.

These extreme weather events will keep on happening and our infrastructure isn't ready at all.

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