Great Plains disaster response crews begin work in Columbus, Fremont

David Burke


Great Plains Conference early response teams began the long, long road to recovery for Nebraska flood victims on Thursday morning, March 28.

“It’s just devastating, totally devastating,” the Rev. Hollie Tapley, conference disaster response coordinator, said at midday Thursday from Columbus. “It’s going to be a long, very long, relief phase in this community. It’s unreal, just unreal.”

Water damage like this, south of Columbus, is what Great Plains disaster response teams are facing. Photos by Rev. Hollie Tapley

Seven early response team members, including four that received “just time” training at the beginning of the day, were in force in Columbus.

“We’re working them. There’s plenty of work,” Tapley said of the new volunteers.

Two weeks after flooding hit the state, some people in the Columbus area haven’t been able to get out of their houses because of flooded roads, she said. A couple she met on her first day had to be airlifted by helicopter to get out of their house.

It’s caused a lot of wear on the community of 23,000, Tapley said. She has to convince residents that the volunteers in the bright greet T-shirts are there to help and are not expecting anything in return.

“People are still in shock,” Tapley said. “Of course, they’re not fully trusting. They don’t know what to do or where to turn. We’re having to do a lot of talking and relationship building to earn the trust of people, which is understandable and kind of par for the course when it’s a disaster of this magnitude.”

Tapley said the Columbus flooding may be the worst she’s seen, with 5 to 7 feet of water in basements.

“It’s still in a critical mode here,” she said. “The infrastructure is destroyed, and everywhere you look there’s dead cattle.”

Another Great Plains team is in Fremont, “working steadily, reaching out in the community,” she said. Tapley plans to travel to Schuyler, Wisner and Norfolk in the next few days to “try and connect with community leaders, get a handle on what the needs are there.”

The first full day hasn’t even been completed and Tapley said she has heard many stories of destruction in this part of Nebraska.

“It’s just heartbreaking, really heartbreaking,” she said.

Meanwhile, repairs have begun to be made to flood damaged roads in Nebraska.

According to a news release from the Nebraska Department of Transportation, repair will begin immediately on U.S. Highway 30, between Fremont and Arlington; U.S. Highway 77, north of Fremont between US-275 and Logan Creek; and U.S. Highway 91, between Nickerson and Fontanelle.

Contact David Burke, communications content specialist, at

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