A Nebraska state trooper poignantly summed up the hardiness and resilience of people living and working along the Missouri River, where breached levees have inundated thousands of acres of farmland, swamped dozens of towns and forced hundreds of people to flee their homes. At least three people are dead, including Nebraska farmer James Wilke, who drove his tractor into floodwaters to rescue a stranded motorist.
In a Facebook post, Trooper Dan Klimek called Wilke a genuine hero — not unlike untold others who live in his devastated state.
“This is a place where a farmer gets on his tractor and loses his life because another was in need and that’s just what we do,” he wrote. “You do things because they are right, not because you will get praise or famous.”
The post by Klimek, who lives in Gretna, Nebraska, about 30 miles southwest of Omaha, also resonated with the hurt Iowans, Missourians and Kansans living along the swollen rivers. They are entering spring, a time of rebirth in agricultural country, with stoic resolve, even as they face massive losses that may put some of them out of business.
“Watch us, America, we will show you how to do this, we will show you what love looks like,” Klimek concluded the post that has been shared and liked thousands of times. The parable “love thy neighbor” is an action phrase — “what we do,” he wrote.
Read the full post here:
The damage from the floods is staggering. The Army Corps of Engineers said 200 miles of levees were compromised in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas. Even in places where the floodwaters are receding, the damage continues to pile up under the swift current, officials said.
In Nebraska alone, 74 cities, 65 counties and four tribal areas are under a state of emergency, according to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. Forty-one Iowa counties have been declared disaster areas, and as the floodwaters head south, residents of Missouri and Kansas are steeling themselves for the devastation to come.
One town in Missouri — Craig, a hamlet of about 250 people located about 110 miles north of Kansas City — is under mandatory evacuation and Interstate 29 has been closed to the Missouri River town of St. Joseph, where residents are frantically filling sandbags in a race against the approaching floodwaters.
The flood comes at a terrible time for farmers, who are reeling from bankruptcies, a trade dispute with China and rising costs. The Wall Street Journal said Nebraska’s agricultural sector is losing about $1 million a day from flooding, ruined properties and destroyed infrastructures.
Jeff Jorgenson, who farms in Fremont County on the Iowa side of the swollen Missouri River, told The Associated Press that farmers in his county lost about $7 million in stored corn and soybeans when water swamped grain bins that hadn’t been emptied of last year’s crop. Once farmers store their grain in bins, it isn’t covered by crop insurance.
“The economy in agriculture is not very good right now. It will end some of these folks farming, family legacies, family farms,” Jorgenson, 43, told The AP. “There will be farmers that will be dealing with so much of a negative they won’t be able to tolerate it.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who visited flood-ravaged Nebraska and Iowa on Tuesday, said the Trump administration will expedite presidential disaster declarations for the two states.
“President Trump asked me to be here in Nebraska and here in the region today with a very simple message,” Pence said. “To all the families that have seen their homes flooded, their livestock lost, who have had their lives, their communities upset by these extraordinary floods and severe weather, our message is this: We’re with you.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting.
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