Donations sought to help victims; NE governor urges caution

David Burke


UPDATE — 12:45 p.m. Saturday, March 16

As the video featuring Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. above suggests, please consider giving to the Great Plains Disaster Response Fund. This is advance number 975/410101.

Financial donations can either be from yourself privately or as a special offering from your church. This plea is separate from the planned giving to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) that was already scheduled for March 31. While we support UMCOR, giving to the conference's disaster response fund allows for quicker response to people who need the help. Use the donate button on the right to donate now. 

According to the Omaha World-Herald, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said Saturday morning that people in impacted areas or in areas downstream should be prepared to evacuate. And the National Weather Service told the newspaper that areas like Ashland and Plattsmouth still face trouble today as the Platte and Missouri Rivers continue to rise.

Read the full World-Herald story.

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse surveyed damage with Ricketts on Saturday morning and posted to Twitter that 53 of Nebraska's 93 counties have officially declared states of emergency.

The Lincoln Journal Star reported that levee failures along the Missouri River threatened to send even more water toward Plattsmouth, Nebraska, the Missouri River already was at an all-time high of 40.5 feet, or 14 feet above flood stage. Floodwaters already covered U.S. Highway 275 north of Plattsmouth on Saturday.

In Nebraska City, the river reached an all-time high of 29.9 feet Saturday morning, nearly 12 feet over flood stage, and forecasters are expecting the river at Brownville to crest Sunday morning at 14 feet over flood stage.

The Journal Star reported that crews aboard a Nebraska National Guard Blackhawk helicopter worked Saturday to place 1.5-ton sandbags to protect wells  for the city of Lincoln on an island of the Platte River. Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler reportedly has signed an emergency order that allows the city to get help from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard.

Read the Journal Star's complete story.

The Rev. Hollie Tapley, conference disaster response coordinator, said she plans to have more information Monday of where early response teams will first be deployed. Check the conference's disaster response Facebook page for updates as they become available.

UPDATE — 4 p.m. Friday, March 15

Floodwaters and storm damage continue to wreak havoc in Nebraska, and the Great Plains Conference’s disaster response coordinator is in the midst of assessing damage and predicting a lot of work ahead. 

“This disaster is huge and it will take months of relief work and years for recovery work,” the Rev. Hollie Tapley wrote in an email to staff and early response teams in the Great Plains. “Your Disaster Response Ministry is committed to the long haul and we will be active until the end.” 

OMAHA WORLD-HERALD: Governor urges caution

FREMONT TRIBUNE: Flooding over roads closes off Fremont

COLUMBUS TELEGRAM: Farmer killed attempting to help in rescue

HASTINGS TRIBUNE: Emergency declared in wake of flooding

GRAND ISLAND INDEPENDENT: Communities prepare for more flooding

LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR: Reports of levee failures, evacuations

Tapley said she wanted to be made aware of churches that are willing to house and/or feed volunteers. Contact her at Tapley said churches already in need of volunteer assistance are in Wisner, Gibbon, Genoa and Monroe, Nebraska. She is planning to host “just time training” to volunteers 14 years and older without certification. The only criteria is a Safe Gatherings certificate. 

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. has asked churches to consider a special offering on Sunday for the conference disaster response fund, which will provide materials for cleanup and the beginning of recovery. The account number is # 975/420101. 

Up to two feet of snow in the western half of Nebraska this week – and a forecast of temperatures peaking in the 50s and 60s next week – bring concern for additional flooding in Nebraska as well as Kansas. 

But Michael Moritz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Hastings, said the snow in western Nebraska is drier than normal and shouldn’t add much to the flooding. 

“The large part of the snow area will probably take a lot of the water into the ground before the leftovers run off,” Moritz said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a major player going forward a week or two.” 

Moritz said the Platte, Loup, Wood, Elkhorn and Niobrara rivers, all above flood stage, all empty into the Missouri River, which is already flooding areas of Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. 

“We’re seeing the beginnings of that water starting to work down there,” he said. 

ORIGINAL STORY —Thursday, March 14

A double-barrel wallop of severe weather – blizzards in the west and flooding in the east – hit Nebraska this week, and its effects could make their way into Kansas.

“There is going to be a long-term relief and recovery phase,” said the Rev. Hollie Tapley, Great Plains Conference disaster response coordinator, with work expected for weeks and months ahead.

Financial donations are requested for the conference disaster response fund. Money given to this fund is provided by the conference directly to people who need it following a disaster such as flooding.

The financial need could be quite large. As much as two feet of snow reached western Nebraska over the past few days, with massive flooding along creeks and rivers in the eastern half. In addition, winds of up to 60 mph have caused damage throughout the state.

“Travel is pretty much at a standstill for the whole state of Nebraska,” Tapley said at midday Thursday.

Here are updates from the Lincoln Journal Star.
Heavy snow and rain have left many Nebraska communities looking like this one near Nickerson, Nebraska, north of Fremont. Photo by Nebraska Department of Transportation

Throughout much of the state, the ground is frozen two feet or more beneath the surface.

“That’s a lot of the reason for the massive amounts of flooding that’s taken place,” Tapley said.

Water from the snow and ice melt, as well as the heavy rains, could make its way into northern Kansas, causing additional damage, she said.

“The flooding is going to be even worse,” Tapley said, “because everything’s so saturated and there’s not place for it to go.”

Tapley has been in conversation with pastors, district superintendents and emergency officials to get an idea of what the conference disaster response volunteers can do. Tapley urged people not to self-deploy into flooded areas but instead to wait from instructions, which will be provided after emergency crews have had a chance to conduct their work.

The conference's early response teams (ERTs) have been notified and are on stand-by status, Tapley said, so they will be ready to move into flooded areas as soon as it is safe to do so. At this time, there is no call for cleaning kits, formerly known as flood buckets. The conference will notify churches if there is a need for those kits or other materials.

“We can’t do anything til the water’s down and the roads are open,” she said.

Volunteers are needed even if they have no training, Tapley said. “Just time training” will give new volunteers all the instruction they need without being credentialed, she said. The only requirement is Safe Gatherings certification.

In a video to members of the Great Plains Conference, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. asked for prayers and for donations to the conference disaster response fund.

“Our churches are known for stepping in and helping those in need,” Bishop Saenz said, encouraging a special offering this Sunday, separate from a planned special offering Sunday, March 31, for the United Methodist Committee on Relief. “I’m sure our churches will become centers of aid and assistance for our volunteers as they move out into the community with relief and recovery efforts.”

Tapley said the effort will be greatly aided by government assistance.

“Our best hope now is prayer for a presidential disaster declaration, so we can get FEMA funds,” she said.
Contact David Burke, content specialist at

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