Jacksonville College

SBTC DR aids Nebraskans flooded by March “bomb cyclone”

April 1st, 2019 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

BRISTOW, Neb. A harsh late winter set the stage for epic mid-March flooding in the Great Plains as a phenomenon commonly known as a “bomb cyclone” triggered a massive drop in air pressure that precipitated high winds across the Texas Panhandle and shattered flood records from rains and melting snow in eastern Nebraska.

“This was a monster, no doubt about it,” Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center, said in comments reported by the Omaha World Herald.

The unprecedented flooding brought calls for assistance to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. Scottie Stice, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention DR director, confirmed that SBTC DR crews headed to northeastern Nebraska over the weekend of March 23 with mud-out, shower, laundry, water support and feeding trailers to serve the areas surrounding tiny Bristow, Neb.

As of March 30, 14 SBTC DR volunteers from Borger, Pampa, Jasper, San Antonio and the DFW Metroplex worked alongside seven from the Kansas Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists to minister to the Boyd County communities of Bristow, Lynch and surrounding ranchlands.

Bristow village council chairperson Marlo Johnson expressed gratitude for the Southern Baptist help.

“They are truly a blessing. The ministry is wonderful,” Johnson told the TEXAN.

Seven households out of a town with a population of only 62 were affected by floodwaters, Johnson said, adding that most had been able to return to their homes and some never would.

The record damage was caused by rain falling and snow melting atop frozen ground, causing a massive run-off.

“For us old timers, it was the fastest we’ve seen the water come in,” Johnson said, adding that with other townspeople, she watched Ponca Creek, a Missouri river tributary, fill with overflow from the Niobrara River south of town.

Large chunks of ice the size of sedans swept downriver, causing damage similar to that wrought by tornados, said Wally Leyerle, SBTC DR associate on site in Bristow.

Bridges are out, complicating recover efforts.

“People are greatly inconvenienced and must travel good distances to any large stores. A town that normally is 30 minutes away now takes two or three hours to reach,” Leyerle said.

What was once a 35 mile trip south to the town of O’Neill—where a local radio station has raised $100,000 for flood recovery assistance—is now a 180 mile trip, Johnson said.

The community has pulled together, as always, Johnson said as she dropped off a load of clean towels for workers. She and village residents have cooked for Red Cross volunteers and Southern Baptist crews as they have arrived.

“It’s been a delight to work with the people who have come in,” Johnson said, referring to the week’s below-freezing temperatures by adding, with a chuckle, “It’s fun to see Texans running around with ear muffs.”

“This is yucky work,” Judy Brandon, SBTC DR volunteer from Borger, said. “It’s really sad to see homes inundated with mud and water.”

Brandon commended the resilient, welcoming spirit of the local community. “These people are good people, the salt of the earth. They love each other. They love living in Nebraska. When there are needs in the community, they stand together tightly. They love God, country and each other.”

The area is well-churched, Brandon said. SBTC DR crew members have been able to pray with residents and even share the gospel.

“Oh, I know Jesus has forgiven me of my sins. I would not be here today if I did not have the Holy Spirit in my heart,” one resident told Brandon.

“We are glad to be here. They are glad to see us,” Brandon said.

SBTC DR crews are expected to remain in the Bristow area through the first week of April, Leyerle said, adding that the rest of the Great Plains states affected by the boom cyclone are still waiting for waters to recede before clean-up operations can begin in full and that future deployments are likely.