This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for April 11, 2019, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.
The historic devastation of Hurricane Harvey began for Houston on August 17, 2017, and more or less ended on September 3, 2017, though there are still homes and businesses not rebuilt. The total cost was 125 billion dollars. The historic devastation of the flooding in Nebraska got underway on March 14, 2019, continued for many days, and the state has still not recovered from the disaster. The cost of the Nebraska flooding is estimated at 1.3 billion dollars. Because our Houston disaster was more costly, we tend to underestimate the horrific experience the folks in the “Cornhuskers State” have just undergone.
One of the tragedies of Nebraska is that many farmers and ranchers there say they are wiped out, and though their family has been farming for generations, they fear they will have to give up the way of life they know and love. This is a chilling thought when you consider the fact that Nebraska, a state since 1867, has some of our nation’s best ranchland and farmland, and we rely on their crops to supply our needs. Normally, Nebraska has warm summers, dry winters, moderate humidity, and lots of sunshine, so this great flood is rare and bizarre, with dams and levees having been breached and bridges and thoroughfares literally washed away!
Nebraska cities were turned into islands, towns were inundated, as rivers like the Platte and the Elkhorn, went on rampages, not only from the rain, but also from the massive snow melts that flowed into the rivers and streams. While Alaska has the most bodies of water, Nebraska has more miles of rivers than any other State in the United States. It’s kind of ironic that the Oto Indian word, “Nebrathka,” means “flat water,” and most of the time its waterways and rivers are “flat” water. Just this one bizarre exception. And although Nebraska has many lighthouses, it has no oceans or gulfs. Whenever a person thinks of Nebraska, they never think of raging flood waters . . . this is a new view of the peacefully rural state, where lovers of rural life always dreamed of having a homestead.
You see, normally, Nebraska gets about 27 inches of rain per year, which is under the national average of 30 inches, and it gets around 28 inches of snow per year, which is only slightly above the national average. Thus is it quite shocking to find that three-fourths of Nebraska’s 93 counties have had to declare an emergency, with 440 million dollars in crop losses and another 400 million in cattle losses (according to the Associated Press). It was the worst flooding Vice-President Pence had ever seen in his life. The view of the flooded areas of Nebraska from outer space was startling.
The “good” in people came out during this catastrophe. Neighbors helped neighbors everywhere, people risking their lives to save others and help livestock survive. Farmers from other states drove truckloads of hay to places where cattle where starving. Banks and other organizations donated money to flood relief, and many restaurants and stores donated a percent of their proceeds to help victims. The Nebraska Farm Bureau launched a disaster Relief Fund. Churches took in homeless victims, providing them shelter and food. And many disaster relief agencies went into action.
Some of those agencies were LCMS World Relief and Human Care Disaster Response, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Catholic Social Services, Lutheran Family Services, and many others. Much aid is still needed. If any of you feel moved to contribute money to help the flood victims of Nebraska, you may give to LCMS World Relief and Human Care Disaster Response, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army, or any of the other relief groups. During any time of a great emergency, Americans should consider helping others.
Ray Spitzenberger, a retired teacher and pastor, is the author of It Must Be the Noodles.