Monday, June 27, 2011

35 feet and rising

A couple of months ago, it wouldn't be unusual for visitors to be "swept away" by Omaha's riverfront.

Now, if you're down by the Missouri downtown, it wouldn't be too hard to get swept away on Omaha's riverfront. There's a distinction here, and it involves minding the barricades and signs.

The muddy Mo is running rampant and consuming just about everything in its wild and woolly path. So far, that pretty much has been limited to levees, farms, homes, roads, an interstate highway, a town or three, some parks and bunches of marinas.

And now the River That Ate the Midwest has its gastronomic eye on a couple of Nebraska nuclear power plants for dessert. Lovely.

FORGIVE US in this part of the world if we've become prone to visions of John Cleese and the "thin little mint . . . a tiny wafer" in Monty Python's the Meaning of Life. Only radioactive and sort of apocalyptic.

I guess we'll let the Nuclear Regulatory Commission worry about that for now. At top, you can see that Omaha has its hands full keeping the College World Series -- and the rest of north downtown -- dry.

What you're looking at is where crews tapped into the area's storm sewer that has been backed up by the flooding Missouri. Now the city pumps out runoff that would otherwise have nowhere else to go -- well, apart from all over city streets and into neighborhood businesses -- and send it over the floodwall and into the swollen river.

Moving south a bit, at left above, this is what the "Labor" sculpture on Omaha's Lewis and Clark Landing looked like Sunday evening. If you look closely, you'll note a couple of figures that have just about been covered by the rushing floodwaters.

They're about 8 feet tall. And they stand atop a platform the entire sculpture rests upon.

AT RIGHT is what "Labor" looked like a couple of weeks ago. Here's a link to the scene from when the waters just began to overtake it.

Perspective -- it's a useful thing.

Now back to keeping north downtown -- NoDo in local speak -- somewhat dry. It's not easy when the river's so high the storm runoff can't run off.

That's where these pumps (below) come in.

It seems Omaha has become a northern New Orleans. Complete with the street flooding until the pumps can get all the water lifted out and into the river.

THE STORM WATER goes from the sewerage (top picture) to these pumps (above), and then to a makeshift slough across what was, until a few days ago, the parking lot of the National Park Service regional headquarters.

THIS IS the drainage slough to the river and all the plumbing coming from the newly added sewer pumps.

Beneath this is the concrete parking lot. It's covered with plastic tarp, walled in with concrete traffic barricades and buttressed with sand berms. One-ton sandbags close off the slough in the foreground.

by the way, used to be the lower level of Lewis and Clark Landing. Now it's the Missouri River.

this used to be an old pier that stood well above the Missouri River. Now it is the Missouri River.

AND LIKE the riverfront trail, this post must come to an abrupt end.

Stay dry out there.

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