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Flooded farm

Floodwaters cover a farm near Fremont.

Speaking on a conference call Sunday afternoon, Gov. Pete Ricketts praised the efforts of emergency personnel and other Nebraskans who have stepped up to help those in need after heavy flooding in the region.

Ricketts said after touring the state on Saturday and Sunday he'd seen, "just great attitudes with regard to how people are responding to this devastation. ... The spirit of Nebraska is strong." 

The flood will likely go down as one of the worst ever in Nebraska, and the governor and other state officials on Sunday urged patience as various state agencies begin to survey the aftermath.

Several cities and towns throughout the eastern part of the state continued to battle flooding and face evacuations on Sunday. The American Red Cross was housing more than 600 people at 22 shelters in the region as of Sunday afternoon, which was down from a peak of nearly 1,200 at one point over the weekend.  

As of Sunday afternoon, the Nebraska State Patrol had rescued 163 people from floodwaters, while the Nebraska National Guard had rescued 111 people and the Nebraska Task Force One Urban Search and Rescue team had rescued 16 people.

Saunders County authorities continued a mandatory evacuation Sunday of residents in several lake communities after a levee along the Platte River was breached Saturday.

Communities affected included Big Sandy Lake, Lake Allure, Thomas Lakes and Sandy Pointe Lake.

The river crested at just over 14 feet at Louisville on Sunday, breaking the previous record (1960) by almost 2 feet. Major flooding is expected to continue in the area through Monday.

In Dodge County, evacuations had occurred in North Bend, Winslow and Inglewood and areas in south Fremont. All major roads in and out of Fremont remained closed Sunday, but the Nebraska National Guard was able to deliver supplies to people who were trapped in the city Sunday afternoon.

Nebraska Department of Transportation Director Kyle Schneweis urged people to be patient when it comes to road closures throughout the region.

"Frustration is mounting as highways continue to stay closed, but they are closed for a reason," he said. "It's because we have not deemed them to be safe yet. It's a dynamic situation. Sometimes the water recedes and we start clearing it, and then the water rises again. So we need patience."

The Dodge County Sheriff's Office went door to door in North Bend on Sunday to evacuate any residents still there. City officials said the water and sewer systems had become unusable. 

Fremont’s water, meanwhile, was safe to drink, according to city and county officials.

Further east, more than 30 buildings were damaged by floodwaters at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha. Despite efforts to set up sandbags and stop water flooding in from the Missouri River, about one-third of the base was underwater as of Sunday afternoon. Flooding hadn't yet affected housing on the base, though.

"They have evacuated some airplanes and they have some flooding that has encroached on the eastern end of their runway," Nebraska National Guard Adjutant General Daryl Bohac said. "But everybody is safe and secure there, so it's just going to be a matter of time for the floodwaters to drain off."

The Nebraska Public Power District said Sunday afternoon that the Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville was still operating at 100 percent.

The plant continues to be in a "Notice of Unusual Event," which it has been in since Friday morning, when the Missouri River reached 42.5 feet at the plant. The river was still expected to rise, though, and crest at 47.5 feet on Tuesday, which would break the previous record (2011) by more than a foot. 

Levees around the plant have been checked by helicopter and foot and were stable as of Sunday evening, according to NPPD.

Further north on the Missouri, releases from Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, South Dakota, were reduced to 53,000 cubic feet per second Sunday morning and were further reduced to 43,000 Sunday night, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.

As water recedes early on in the week, state officials will turn their focus to restoring water systems in communities that have been affected and repairing roads and bridges. To do that will require relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ricketts said Sunday the state had already begun the process of requesting aid from FEMA. The governor said he spoke Sunday with Paul Taylor, who is the regional administrator for FEMA Region 7, which covers Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Taylor will visit Nebraska on Tuesday, while some of his staff members will visit on Monday to survey the damage and help prepare documents for the disaster relief request.

"We've got a lot of individuals in need, and we've got a lot of infrastructure here that is damaged, so we want to get this process expedited as quickly as possible," Ricketts said. 

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