The devastating flooding that has inundated parts of southwest Iowa and eastern Nebraska for the past several days — and continues to do so — has once again focused a very bright light on the sometimes courageous efforts of the area’s first responders.
While those efforts are certainly worth noting, the fight against the current flooding has been joined by thousands of “first responders” who do not wear a badge and get paid to deal with dangerous situations — the businesses and community volunteers who have unselfishly stepped up to join the fight against Mother Nature’s onslaught.
With rapidly rising floodwaters, firefighters from the Council Bluffs Fire Department as well as the men and women who volunteer to staff fire departments throughout the area were called upon to rescue families who were trapped in their homes and drivers who had been trapped in their vehicles.
City, county and state law enforcement officers took on the added responsibility of serving as the eyes of the flood watch and flood fighting efforts. In many cases officers were asked to man barricades put in place to keep people out of flooded areas and to deal with those who were reluctant to comply.
Here in Council Bluffs, Public Works employees, already reeling from a blizzard and its cleanup, were forced to switch almost immediately to flood-fighting mode as heavy rains coupled with rising temperatures and melting snow swelled area streams and rivers.
Last Friday, with the Missouri River here five feet above flood stage, Public Works employees, bolstered by employees from other city departments, were filling sandbags – some 5,000 of them. With the river well above flood stage, the city’s 26-mile levee system required around-the-clock monitoring, and Public Works employees answered the call.
The Red Cross and area churches jumped into action to set up shelters for those displaced from their homes by flooding. The Salvation Army was collecting food and other necessities for those who had been displaced from their homes along with equipment that will be needed to clean up when the flood waters recede.
Throughout the area, volunteers — neighbors helping neighbors — were filling and placing sandbags, helping neighbors and strangers alike move their belonging from threatened homes to higher ground, doing whatever they could to protect their communities.
The massive effort by Hy-Vee to help the residents of Fremont, Nebraska, a city of 26,000 cut off on all sides by flood waters, cannot go without mention.
Using drivers from the Hy-Vee distribution center in Cherokee as well as from PDI, a Hy-Vee subsidiary in Ankeny, Hy-Vee’s corporate headquarters in West Des Moines orchestrated, with the help of the Nebraska State Patrol and the Army National Guard, a “relief column” of eight semis carrying food, water and gasoline to restock the Hy-Vee store and gas station in Fremont.
In addition to serving its regular customers, the Fremont Hy-Vee store had been taking food to three area shelters every four hours — at no charge — to help those displaced from their homes by flooding.
Pat Miller, director of operations for the city’s Public Works Department, said it well last Friday when he commented, “When things are at the worst, this city is at its best.”
We think it’s a comment that is applicable to the entire region. We’re fortunate that is the case.