Deshler hopeful mitigation plan can prevent future flooding

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 26, 2016. 

DESHLER — After two major floods within the last two years, the city of Deshler is hoping to minimize the chance for another flood.

The effort to lessen the likelihood of another devastating flood comes in the form of a flood hazard mitigation study and a partnership between the city and the Little Blue Natural Resources District.

During a meeting in Davenport on July 12, the LBNRD and officials from Deshler entered into an agreement under the Interlocal Cooperation Act of the state of Nebraska and agreed to share costs of the study.

The agreement will allow the LBNRD and the city of Deshler to split 25 percent of the local contribution costs for the study. Both Deshler and the LBNRD will pay $6,250, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to cover the rest of the costs. The total cost of the project is estimated at $49,650.

Both parties are hopeful the study will help combat the flooding problem.

“We’ve had two incidents in the past 12 months,” said Julie Buescher, Deshler city clerk and treasurer. “It’s been a problem.”

The two most impactful floods came in May 2015 and April 2016.

During the flood of 2015, Deshler High School had to be used as an evacuation center for residents of the Parkview Haven and Meadowlark Heights Assisted Living Centers, said Al Meier, superintendent of Deshler Public Schools.

The school also suffered damages in the form of a flooded football field and track, as well as water damage to the elementary school.

“We had water coming into the elementary school … we had 3-5 inches of water in it,” Meier said.

The school received help from FEMA and district funds after the flood and has since repaired the damages to custodial rooms, vents and the football field, as well as the track.

During the April 2016 flood, the Nebraska Rainfall Assessment and Information Network reported more than 5 inches of precipitation fell just southeast of Ruskin during a 24-hour period.

The damage from that particular flood was extensive, too, including damages to area ballparks and city parks and the destruction of playground equipment.

Buescher hopes the study will help find solutions to the flood problems.

“I guess they’re hoping to identify what some of the issues are to why it’s happening and some of the solutions to keep it from happening,” she said.

Mike Onnen, general manager of the Little Blue Natural Resources District, says the study will be extensive.

“The firm that has been selected will be looking at all the elevations of the structures,” he said. “Hopefully by next year they will have all of that data collected.”

The study will include an examination of the structures in the flood plain and running storm frequencies to determine the level of flood it would take to damage those structures located in the flood plain. Onnen said moving structures out of the flood plain and rechannelization of Snake Creek to prevent the likelihood of flooding also are preventative measure possibilities.

After receiving funding from FEMA, conducting field work and planning, the city of Deshler is expected to review its options and conduct a public meeting before final plans are put into place.

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Thayer County Fair exhibitors cope with heat

*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 22, 2016. 

DESHLER — With scorching temperatures hovering around the 100-degree mark on Thursday afternoon at the Thayer County Fairgrounds, fairgoers, 4-H’ers and livestock were feeling the heat.

The high temperatures forced the Thayer County Fair Board to tweak the fair schedule, which led to the decision to postpone the horse judging contest. Instead of judging horses, more of an emphasis was put on keeping all parties involved — including the animals — safe.

“It’s been pretty warm, but for the most part everyone is dealing with it and taking the proper precautions to keep their animals safe,” said Jacie Milius, Thayer County extension educator.

The horse judging originally was scheduled for 3 p.m., but the decision to postpone the event allowed for fair organizers to regroup and prepare for the night’s festivities.

While fair organizers were prepping for the night portion of the fair, livestock owners were busy in the 4-H Beef Barn tending to livestock in an effort to keep them cool. Preventative measures were taken, such as the placement of numerous fans and misters in the barn, along with steady refills of water to ensure the safety of livestock and poultry entries.

“In the middle of the afternoon, we normally go fill up buckets so they can drink some water,” said 12-year-old Cayden Huber of Hebron.

The heat also has caused livestock owners to pay special attention for signs of heat-related issues and even forced a tweak in the animals’ feeding schedule, among other things.

“A lot of early mornings and late nights … they don’t eat as good in the heat,” said livestock owner Tyson Hissong. “We feed in the morning anyways, but we just do it earlier and later to deal with the heat. They’re like humans: When it’s hot out, you don’t want to eat. When it’s hot out, they don’t want to eat.”

Hissong said the heat also has made livestock owners spend less time moving their animals out of the shade, which has had an effect on the preparation portion of the entry shows.

He also noted that the heat has forced many 4-H’ers to spend less time in the 4-H barn and more time at home.

Cayden was forced to get creative to stay out and about at the fair.

“We brought a mini fridge!” he announced with a smile.

While the livestock tend to receive a bit of special attention during the dog days of summer, so, too, do the people attending the fair.

Much like with the animals, a number of measures to ensure safety and fun were put in place well before the afternoon.

The Deshler Fire Department set up a booth inside the Thayer County Fairgrounds Activity Center equipped with free bottles of water, blood pressure machines and nurses on site.

In conjunction with those efforts from the fire department, the Thayer County Emergency Management team had a trailer set up right outside the Activity Center to help, too. The team was prepared to help fairgoers stay cool and stay safe.

While the horse judging event was the primary event affected by the weather, it wasn’t the only one.

The Thayer County Fair parade, a signature event of the county fair, runs past the Parkview Haven Nursing Home and traditionally allows for members to sit on the lawn and watch the parade.

The heat didn’t entirely stop Parkview Haven members from watching the parade, but they were forced to take precautions in the form of sun hats and plenty of water.

Overall, Milius has simple advice for those attending the fair.

“The people who come to the air just need to know that if they get too hot to come inside, drink plenty of water and be smart.”