Head Of Nebraska National Guard Describes Flooding Situation Throughout The State

Mar 20, 2019
Originally published on March 20, 2019 7:03 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Underwater - that is the status again today across a lot of the Midwest. Take Nebraska, where many homes and offices and roads are submerged. People are dragging sandbags, shifting everything they can to higher ground and hoping and waiting for the water to recede. Well, our next guest has had a bird's-eye view of the damage. Major General Daryl Bohac is the head of the Nebraska National Guard. He's been touring the state by helicopter today. General, first of all, welcome and, second of all, where exactly have we caught you?

DARYL BOHAC: Well, right now, Mary Louise, I'm near Nemaha, Neb., which is in the southeast corner of the state along the Missouri River. We have a nuclear power plant down here that's operated by Nebraska Public Power. And we're assisting with some sandbagging operations. The good news for the power plants - remained 100 percent operational during this entire episode.

KELLY: Yeah, that is good news indeed. Tell me a little bit more about what you've been able to see as you made your way around the state by air today.

BOHAC: Sure. So primarily focused on the Missouri River south of Omaha, Neb. That's the area where the river is moving through its final surge before it leaves our state. And the Missouri is fairly widespread down here. In fact, bridges across - from Nebraska into Missouri and Iowa are underwater. And so that means long commutes for folks that work in this area of the state as they try to get around all the water.

KELLY: I want to ask about the National Guard training facility in the eastern part of Nebraska. This is Camp Ashland on the banks of the Platte River. You have been tweeting out photos from the base, which are really stunning and awful. Tell me - give me a sense of what it looks like.

BOHAC: So that training site, which actually was flooded in the last flood we had, major flood we had on the Missouri here in Nebraska, it's completely underwater. We do have some buildings that were built and put on stilts because of the risk of the floods there. But the rest of the training site is underwater, and some of the buildings are essentially up to the roof eaves and will require significant modification when we're all through.

KELLY: But, I mean, it's early days, of course, but do you think that plans will be to rebuild and stay put there?

BOHAC: I think we will return to that side at least in some form. The long-term plan remains to be seen, but we have a fairly effective levee system. One of the issues is one of the levees did breach, which allowed much more water in than we had previously.

KELLY: So you've got how many National Guard deployed right now across the state?

BOHAC: So across the state, we have about 221 soldiers and airmen that are performing various roles, from supporting the Department of Transportation and Nebraska State Patrol doing traffic control points to aircraft operations dumping large 2,000-pound sandbags on levees or into breaches to help control the flood waters. And then today, we performed something which we haven't done in a long time, which - and I mean, like, over 50 years is we pushed hay out the back of one of our helicopters in order to feed some cows that were stranded, some cattle, for one of our feeder operators. The floodwaters have trapped the cattle and isolated them.

KELLY: Last thing to ask you, which is what kind of support does your state need right now from the federal level?

BOHAC: Sure. So, well, yesterday, Governor Ricketts signed the request for an expedited major disaster declaration. That was sent to FEMA Region VII in Kansas City and is in Washington, D.C., was received there at 5:30 p.m. yesterday evening. So we're hoping for that declaration any time.

KELLY: Well, General Bohac, we wish you luck. Thanks for taking the time to speak to us.

BOHAC: You're welcome. Thank you for the opportunity to share our story, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Major General Daryl Bohac - he is head of the Nebraska National Guard. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.