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Floodwater swamps Kearney hotels after 9 inches of rain reported in south-central Nebraska
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Floodwater swamps Kearney hotels after 9 inches of rain reported in south-central Nebraska

Kearney Flooding

Floodwaters swamped areas of Kearney north of Interstate 80 on Tuesday.

A midsummer thunderstorm complex that dumped widespread torrential rain over areas of south-central Nebraska on Monday night led to extensive flooding in Kearney and potential big problems for areas downstream.

Guests were evacuated from several hotels on the south side of Kearney on Tuesday morning, with photos shared on social media showing water covering the hood of a car parked at the Holiday Inn as an air boat shuttled people to safety.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney opened its Centennial Towers West residence hall as a temporary shelter for "hundreds of travelers who were evacuated," spokesman Todd Gottula said in a news release.

The residence hall is also open to residents of Kearney and surrounding flood-ravaged communities.

The National Weather Service said Tuesday that up to 9 inches of rain fell in some spots from storms that pounded Buffalo, Dawson, Frontier, Gosper, Kearney and Phelps counties.

Once the storms moved out, firefighters in Kearney spent several hours evacuating a mobile home park and rescuing people stranded by street flooding overnight. The Dawson County Sheriff's Office reported several vehicles were stalled in high water on U.S. 30 in Lexington.

The Red Cross opened a shelter at Lexington High School, providing a safe place to sleep, hot meals and referrals to community services.

The runoff from Monday night's storms overwhelmed the Sapp Bros. truck stop at the Odessa interchange on Interstate 80, with water flowing up to the doors of semis parked in the area on Tuesday morning.

At 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, the Nebraska Department of Transportation reported that a westbound lane of I-80 was closed at Kearney due to rising floodwaters.

Water was reported over U.S. 30 west of Kearney and Nebraska 10 north of the city.

No injuries have been reported.

The weather service said 8.88 inches of rain fell near Loomis, 8.33 near Hildreth and 7.66 near Riverdale. Airports in Lexington (5.74), Holdrege (4.63) and Kearney (4.27) all reported over 4 inches of rain from Monday night's storms.

Major flooding is expected along the Wood River in Gibbon, with a record crest possible, forecasters said. In March, a record crest inundated much of the community.

Major flooding is also expected downstream near Alda and along the Platte River near Grand Island.

At Grand Island, the Platte is expected to crest Friday morning just a few inches under the record set on March 27, 1960. 

In Kearney, a community nestled between the Platte and Wood rivers, much of the flooding on Tuesday was focused along Turkey Creek, a Platte River channel, and lakes on the north side of the interstate.

Video from a Nebraska State Patrol helicopter showed several of the hotels and restaurants clustered around the Younes Conference Center as islands amid the floodwaters.

In parking lot after parking lot, vehicles -- from small cars to large RVs -- had water over the wheels. The State Patrol video showed cars under water outside the patrol's troop headquarters.

Because of the flooding, Amtrak trains on the California Zephyr route suspended service early Tuesday morning. The westbound train left Lincoln at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, while the eastbound train staged for several hours in McCook.

With a risk of additional rainfall into Wednesday morning, forecasters said it's difficult to gauge how quickly waters might recede. Little to no precipitation is in the forecast for this weekend and into next week.

Photos, video from Tuesday's flooding

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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