Spring floods on the Missouri and Platte rivers have given new meaning to the popular phrase: "Don't leave home without it."

Drivers who are thinking about crossing into Iowa and Missouri or heading west, might want to take along lots of maps or a road atlas.

Record flood levels on the Missouri River have closed U.S. 136 and U.S. 159 in northwest Missouri, which means drivers can't use bridges at Brownville and Rulo.

Officials also have closed a stretch of Iowa 2 from Interstate 29 to the bridge over the Missouri River at Nebraska City due to rising water. So, motorists can't use Nebraska 2 to get to Iowa. The road is expected to be closed for a long time.

The Nebraska Department of Roads recommends drivers take U.S. 77 south through Beatrice to Interstate 70 in Kansas if they want to get to the Kansas City area. Residents living farther west of Lincoln can take U.S. 81 south from York.

The roads department is discouraging motorists from using U.S. 75 at Nebraska City as a north-south route because of potential flooding and construction projects, said Operations Manager Tom Sands.

Drivers east of Lincoln should take Nebraska 50 if they want to get to Omaha, due to construction on U.S. 75 north of Plattsmouth. 

Toll bridges at Plattsmouth and Bellevue are open, Sands said, but there are weight restrictions for semi-trucks on the Bellevue bridge.

The South Omaha and Interstate 80 bridges at Omaha are open, but roads department officials have placed the U.S. 30 bridge at Blair on its watch list in case dikes overtop, Sands said. Bridges at Decatur and Sioux City remain open.

"It's certainly getting more challenging to those who are on family vacations, who are not aware of the situation that is occurring on the Missouri River," said Rose White, spokesperson for AAA Nebraska.

In addition to maps, drivers are advised to get as much information as they can from Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas department of transportation websites and news outlets before traveling regionally. AAA Nebraska members also can check the travel services company's website.

"Some situations are changing on an hourly basis," White said.

There are no bridge closures on the Platte River, but there was a temporary road closure on U.S. 30 between the North Platte Airport and the Maxwell viaduct due to high water over the road. That could be open by Tuesday, weather permitting, Sands said.

Crete Carrier Corp. in Lincoln keeps a close eye on flooding on the Missouri and Mississippi as well as other rivers that are experiencing floods across the country, said Jack Peetz, executive vice president.

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He said the flooding on the Missouri River is causing some delays for company drivers but nothing significant. Crete Carrier has about 5,300 tractor trucks and serves all lower 48 states.

"For every 45 miles (of detours), we're adding another hour of transit time to the load," Peetz said.

Some of the delays are caused by driving more slowly on unfamiliar two-lane highways and going through small towns at slower speeds, he said.

Customer complaints have been few.

"They're really pretty good. They understand that at this particular time, it's floods," Peetz said. "In winter, it's snow storms and ice storms."

Bills are adjusted, and customers pay for the extra detour miles, he said.

Crete Carrier also is dealing with floods in North Dakota and Montana. He said the flooding along the Missouri is more prolonged than what he has seen in the past.

"This is new and unusual for us," said Peetz, who has been with the company since 1988. "It's going to be an aggravation. ... It may be longer than September."

Lori Warner, president of the Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce, said it is too early to tell what all of the additional detour traffic on U.S. 77 will mean to Beatrice.

She said the city just finished celebrating Homestead Days last weekend, which brought in an additional 30,000 people.

"Unfortunately, it's not a good reason to come to Beatrice," Warner said of the flood detour.

The chamber likes to showcase Beatrice and would prefer people come and visit for other reasons. She said the flooding situation on the Missouri River is putting more stress on people.

Warner said she hopes drivers will come back at a different time and explore what the community has to offer. She said Beatrice may see a small economic boost from the extra traffic.

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Reach Algis J. Laukaitis at 402-473-7243 or alaukaitis@journalstar.com.


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