The catastrophic flooding in Nebraska shattered a too-comfortable truth about residing in the Heartland. If pressed, most of us would admit to a little self-satisfaction in not having to endure the annual hurricanes that plague the Southeast, the wildfires that plague the West, and the heavy snows that blanket the Upper Midwest. We have our occasional tornadoes, but what just occurred in our state—what climatologists cryptically call a “bomb cyclone”—is not part of our perennial weather calculus.
When spring approaches in Nebraska, we expect our rivers and streams to peacefully rise, as snow from the nearby Rockies gently melts. We are The Cornhusker State. We could be called The River State. We have more miles of rivers than any other state in the Union. The Missouri, Platte, Republican, Elkhorn, and Niobrara are our most famous. But we don’t think of them as threatening. Until they are.
In the most destructive Nebraska weather event in most of our lifetimes, a perfect storm of factors enabled the dislocation and distress we see around us. Lands soaked from autumn rains were frozen solid and then covered in snow. When the bomb cyclone’s lethal mix of blizzard and rain hit the state, an enormous quantity of water, ice, and collected topsoil sped down the hard land like a furious slurry into rivers, creeks, and reservoirs, busting through dams, levees, and other structures designed to hold back the torrent.
True to our character, we have humbly come together to help each other out. The remarkable response of local leaders, of neighbor helping neighbor, has made a huge difference. Individuals and communities, however, cannot solve this problem alone or solely through state and local government resources. They need assistance from their federal government.
Here are some of the initial steps that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends to jump-start the recovery process:
Report your damage to your local emergency manager. This information can be used to assess further recovery needs.
Call your insurance agent to see if there is coverage for your losses.
Document your damage. Take photos, video, and make lists of damaged items.
Register with FEMA online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, or call 800-621-FEMA (3362). Be prepared to provide your current address, social security number, address of the damaged property, contact information, number of occupants in your household, insurance and income.
Register, even if you are insured. Your insurance may not cover everything, and some damage may not show up until later. Do not wait for your insurance settlement before you register.
The amazing response of initial community shelters is now being formalized into federal disaster recovery centers, which will start appearing throughout Nebraska. According to FEMA, there will be at least one recovery center in each affected county, and more counties may be added. At recovery centers, those affected by the storm can meet directly with FEMA, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Small Business Administration (SBA) personnel.
Businesses, as well as private, non-profit organizations—such as charities, churches, and universities—can apply for SBA low-interest loans to repair or replace disaster-damaged property, inventories, supplies, machinery, and equipment.
USDA administers multiple federal assistance programs designed to help with ag losses after a natural disaster, including direct payments, loans, and cost-sharing.
FEMA federal disaster assistance can include helping make temporary repairs to homes, paying for short-term places to live, and providing for disaster-related needs not covered by other programs.
Remember, there is no requirement to obtain a rejected insurance claim prior to registering for FEMA assistance.
Naturally, if the above resources are not meeting your needs, please feel free to reach out to my office to help you get the assistance you require.