I was all prepared to do my usual trivial, lighthearted, Friday blog post, but the events in our great state over the past 48 hours have made that seem meaningless.
No, I am not talking about the Husker’s winning two games at the Big 10 men’s basketball tournament.
I am referring to the weather that has been served up this week and the subsequent disasters.
I get real tired of media saying this or that is the “worst ever”, “never been seen”, etc., etc., especially when the reporter saying those things is all of twenty-something years old and considers anything that happened more than five minutes or five years ago to be irrelevant. However, the flooding conditions we have seen in pretty much the eastern half, eastern two-thirds of Nebraska in the past couple of days are unprecedented. Do not get me wrong, rivers and streams flood, they have flooded before, will flood again, but the scale and timing of the flooding we are seeing in Nebraska right now truly is exceptional!
If you are like me, you have continued to scroll through pictures and videos on FaceBook shaking your head in disbelief.
Look at this screenshot of Nebraska stream flow data from the USGS:
That map shows stream gages, instrumentation that monitors water levels at all times. Each dot represents a different gage. The dark blue dots represent water levels much above “normal”, black dots represent record levels for the date, and the open dots are simply not available because the gages are out of service because of high water or simply the water levels are “off the charts”.
We no doubt are experiencing a “perfect storm” of conditions including frozen ground, snow pack, and significant rainfall. Flooding is occurring in places that I never thought would flood; in places that have not flooded for a long, long time.
With the loss being experienced by many of our friends and neighbors, it is hard to think of things like how this is going to affect the fish and fishing, but you better believe I already have started fielding questions on that topic. Let me make a few comments:
First of all, flooding of rivers and streams is a natural event. As a matter of fact, periodic floods are necessary for the health of river and stream habitats and the fish and wildlife that rely on those habitats. Yes, the flooding we are seeing now is going to impact our resources and some of those impacts are going to be long-term. But, not all of those impacts are going to be detrimental. During flood events rivers and streams cut new channels, scour stream beds, erode banks and sediments, and deposit new woody debris; all of those processes are a healthy part of river and stream ecosystems. If you wish, flood events are comparable to renovation or rehabilitation projects that are done on lakes, reservoirs, pits and ponds.
Fish that live in rivers and streams are able to adapt and survive flood conditions. As a matter of fact, flood events are times when fish tend to move, migrate, including migrations upstream. Now, I wonder if there will be as much fish movement due to the timing of the flooding we are seeing now–that water is very cold, and I suspect many fish may stay in wintering habitats or slack water habitats and “ride it out”. But, I have seen photos of live carp stranded on a bridge that was currently flooding and one can expect that sandpits and waters adjacent to rivers will have fish moving in and out of them with flood waters. As water levels recede and “normalize” we will quickly see fish communities settle back into seasonal habitats and patterns.
Oh, for now, our spring trout stockings are still on hold. We will be sorting through what we will be able to do and where we might be able to stock fish in the coming days. The best I can tell you right now is to “stay tuned”. When we know something, we will let folks know.
We naturally ask what could have been done to prevent events like the ones we are seeing now. I am hearing some ask those questions already this morning. Yes, we all know that we have done many things to try to “tame” the rivers and “mother nature”, dams have been built, rivers channelized and diked. Just know this, no matter how much is done to try to prevent flooding and natural disasters, at some point “mother nature” can still dish out more than we can handle. At some point we are all humbled by just how small and insignificant we really are.
I have seen video clips of amazing efforts being done right now by first responders, law enforcement, National Guard, Department of Transportation, utilities, and many volunteers. A huge THANK YOU to all, and please be safe!
Do not even think about taking a drive to go gawk at the situation. Right now everyone just needs to stay out of the way. You can see it all on the interwebs anyway.
From those in our flooded east to our ranchers out west who are trying to dig out from the blizzard and take care of all of those baby calves, you ALL are in our thoughts and prayers! I heard someone say yesterday that we will get through this, we will recover, the same way we always do, by faith and community. Nebraskans come from pioneer stock, it has been said of our ancestors that the cowards never came and the weak died on the way. We will get through this too.