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Fremont flooding

Volunteers form a human chain to help pile sandbags along old U.S. 275 in Fremont as floodwaters spread in mid-March.

Austin Rose won’t forget this spring break any time soon.

The former Nebraska running back and Lincoln native graduated from UNL in December and has been settling into life as a graduate student at Midland University in Fremont the past month. He was looking forward to a trip to Colorado this week before beginning his first spring ball as a graduate assistant coach for the Warriors.

Rose, a Lincoln North Star grad, tried to drive from Fremont to Lincoln on Friday after a morning workout ahead of the trip, but found water already crossing U.S. Highway 275. Without an exit route, he backtracked, unsure of how long he’d be stuck.

Rose, of course, was not alone. The Fremont area saw multiple levees along the Platte River fail from Friday into Saturday morning, prompting mandatory evacuation orders for swaths of the city but also cutting off driving options.

“I was with a couple of the other coaches and they were stuck, too,” Rose said. “On Saturday, we woke up in the morning and we heard that a couple of the other guys were helping to fill up sandbags and helping to put sandbags down, so we went out to help, too.”

Midland head coach and former Nebraska staffer Jeff Jamrog said more than 25 players and staffers helped on the front lines of Old U.S. 275 and also Broad Street. Many student-athletes and regular Midland students had already left on break, but many more were still in town and trying to get out as break began.

“(Freshman wide receiver and Ponca native) Dalton Tremayne, he told me he filled sandbags from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday” said Jamrog, who made it from Fremont to Elkhorn on Friday morning after the workout but then couldn’t get back. “(Assistant coach) Jeff Merritt helped all day on Saturday, then on Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. he was at an elementary school in Fremont taking donations and supplies.

“It was great to see so many people step up. People in Fremont, at Midland, the businesses and the community.”

Rose said he and a few others left the work on Old 275 only briefly on Saturday and returned to find water levels had changed dramatically.

“When we first got there it wasn’t too bad — you could see the water coming over a little bit, but we still had a decent amount of space before it got toward the city,” said Rose, adding that they went over to Broad Street but found volunteers there had enough hands on deck. “We came back to the south side where we were originally at and it was like a river for real. It was crazy. The water was moving was so fast.

“It rose a lot over the span of not even an hour.”

Added Jamrog, “It’s devastating. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this in my lifetime. Houses and business getting flooded and lives getting turned upside down. It’s tough when it hits home right in front of you. On the flip side, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such outstanding compassion from people and people coming forward and people offering their services in tough times.”

Rose and former Husker Ross Dzuris were among the many who were able to get out of town eventually by flying from Fremont Municipal Airport. People from all over the area donated planes, fuel and resources to help keep a caravan of planes moving people out and supplies in.

Rose’s pilot first stopped in Omaha to drop off a woman, then continued on to Lincoln.

“It was the littlest plane I’ve ever been on,” Rose said. “Without them, I’d probably still be stuck there.”

Instead, Rose is enjoying some well-earned time off. The impacts of the flooding in Fremont and around the area will take much longer than a week to sift through, of course. Jamrog said the program is in wait-and-see mode until Friday as to whether classes — and spring ball — begin as scheduled next week.

Nobody seems to have any doubt, though, that the folks in Fremont will find a way to keep moving forward.

“Fremont, as a community, really put in the work,” Rose said. “I don’t think if we did the sandbagging, I think a lot more stuff would have been touched in Fremont by the flood. There’s a lot of people out there helping out. All that effort helped out in the long run.

“I didn’t expect anything less.”

Nebraska flooding photos,videos

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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