HERSHEY — Southwest Nebraska residents are cleaning up after record flooding on the South Platte River.
The river overflowed earlier this month after the rainwater that inundated parts of Colorado flowed into Nebraska. Communities all along the South Platte and Platte rivers prepared for flooding before the rise began.
The rivers reached record heights in Roscoe, North Platte and Brady, but fortunately the flood caused little major damage because of the defenses and because much of the land close to the rivers is rural.
Hershey residents built sandbag walls all along the river to protect the town from flooding. Volunteers came out Saturday to help remove the sandbags now that the threat is gone.
"It's finally coming to some closure for us," Village Clerk LeAnn Ellis said. "We're looking through the bills, trying to get those paid, get the town back in order. It's going to take a while."
The volunteers were joined by inmates from the Lincoln County Detention Center who have been helping throughout the flood fight over the past two weeks.
Besides tearing down sandbag walls and repairing flood damage, residents of southwest Nebraska are also dealing with water quality concerns and worsening allergies.
Officials have said the flooding may have contaminated private wells that rural residents use for drinking water. So those who rely on a private well for their drinking water are being encouraged to have their water tested if they live near any of the flooding.
Health officials say the flooding may have made things worse for people who suffer from mold or weed allergies. The floodwaters may have carried in weed spores that aren't typically present in Nebraska, and the added moisture almost certainly helped mold grow, said Brooke Luenenborg, a physician's assistant at the Ear, Nose, Throat and Sinus Clinic in North Platte. She said there also may be microorganisms from dead animals in the water that will irritate some people's sinuses.
The National Weather Service said the South Platte and Platte rivers are likely to remain elevated throughout early October as water from Colorado makes its way across the state.
The river reached flood stage for the first time Sunday at Grand Island, and the weather service said minor flooding along the Platte could reach as far east as Central City.
Officials continue warning residents to be cautious because of debris and contamination in the rivers from flooding.