Huskers share stories, spread support after historic flooding
Beyond the Storm: Voices of Recovery
Editor's Note — This story begins a series of reporting by students in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Led by faculty, the students are working across the region to cover the historic impacts recent storms and subsequent flooding have had on communities.
It has been ranked among the worst natural disasters Nebraska has ever seen.
On March 13, a bomb cyclone hit the state with blizzard conditions, drenching rains and historic flooding. Thousands of homes and businesses were lost, fertile cropland, highways and bridges were washed out and countless livestock were killed.
The storm’s impact still weighs heavily on communities across the state and continues to resonate among students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
“It’s just crazy to think about,” said Zoe Cook, an English major from Omaha. “We’re landlocked, so I never think water is going to be a problem. It was just so shocking how it came so fast.”
Cook expressed her concerns for the economic impacts of the storm. It caused estimated damages of $1.3 billion.
“Nebraska is a big farming state,” Cook said. “So all of that farming land lost, all the animals lost and all the crops lost will be a really hard thing for the farmers to come back from. Then, the state as a whole, because it’s such a big source of our economy.”
For Tymaree Krusmark, an architecture major from Pender, the effects are more personal.
“My whole town was basically underwater,” Krusmark said. “My aunt’s and grandparents’ house and some of my house were basically all flooded. We just had a flood last June, and everyone got their basements redone, and then this happened again.”
She said the people of Pender, a town of roughly 1,000, are grateful for the support of their fellow Nebraskans.
“Over spring break, I couldn’t go anywhere because I had to help my town,” Krusmark said. “I think it has really brought out a different side of people. There are people that I thought didn’t really care, but they’d come out and volunteer. So I guess it really brings out the good in people.”
Simon Bessmer and Adam Lesher, music education majors from Omaha, expressed desires to go and help people recover.
“I think I could be making more of an effort to get out and volunteer with the flood relief and stuff like that,” Lesher said.
Bessmer's thoughts turn to how the floods have changed one of his favorite drives in western Nebraska.
"It's sad to think that all houses that I drove by and all those fields for the farmers are gone," Bessmer said. “I wish I could do something to help out, rather than just donate money. I wish I could actually go work with my hands to help the people in need — really feel like I’m making a difference.”
The university is developing a system to coordinate flood recovery volunteer opportunities for students, faculty and staff. Details will be announced. The campus community can learn about future service opportunities by joining the Nebraska Disaster Recovery Service Corps available through GivePulse. Group members will receive regular and timely messages about disaster recovery initiatives.
Olivia McCown | Journalism and Mass Communications
Students weigh in on impacts of devastating storm
As Nebraska slowly recovers from the March 13 “cyclonic bomb,” University of Nebraska–Lincoln students have been telling personal stories of the combined blizzard and flooding that caused an estimated $1.3 billion in storm damages.
Taylor Sullivan, 25, said his mother’s Bellevue home was flooded. It remains inaccessible until Bellevue police say residents may return home.
“It is tough to see our family struggle through this time,” Sullivan, a global studies major, said. “It is also very uplifting to see how the community has come together to help out victims like my family,” Sullivan said.
Jessica Olson, 19, a psychology major, received word her 74-year-old grandmother was evacuated from her Norfolk home when the Elkhorn River flooded. Her grandmother is now staying in a retirement facility outside Norfolk until disaster assistance authorities allow residents to safely return home.
“I am just happy that my grandma is safe from the flooding,” Olson said. “It is going to take a long time to recover everything."
Cole Hoofnagle, 21, is helping families hit by the flooding in Valley.
“I think people should help out the best that they can, I am currently helping out by rebuilding homes,” Hoofnagle, a business major from St. Charles, Illinois, said.
He believes massive livestock losses from the storm, estimated by state officials to be in the $400 million range, will hit some Nebraska ranchers hard and trickle down to consumers.
“The rest of the country will see the effect the storm will have on beef prices,” Hoofnagle said.