ALL NEWS

‘Angels of the sky’ offer flights into flooded Nebraska city

Mar 19, 2019, 7:35 AM | Updated: 8:29 am
...

A Nebraska city walled off by massive flooding is getting a big lift from private pilots who are offering free flights to shuttle stranded residents to and from their hometown.

Flooding from the Platte River and other waterways is so bad that just one highway lane into Fremont remains uncovered, authorities said Monday. Emergency responders have restricted access for safety reasons, leaving residents in the city of 26,000 stuck on an island in the middle of Nebraska farm country, about 40 miles northwest of Omaha. The flooding in Fremont comes as communities in several Midwestern states grapple with swollen rivers and breached or overtopped levees following heavy rain and snowmelt.

After a weekend with no road access to the outside world, officials in Fremont said they still don’t know when any will reopen. The flights were a godsend for Sue Ankersen, 56, who lives in the city but wasn’t able to return home after baby-sitting her granddaughter in Omaha on Friday. Ankersen said she had never flown in a small plane before, but heard about the flights from her daughter and worked up the courage to go because she was homesick and wanted to volunteer to help others.

“I call them angels of the sky,” she said. “I’m just so thankful for these guys doing this.”

The makeshift shuttle flights have led to a surge in air traffic at the Fremont Municipal Airport and its two runways. Pilots have flown in from at least five nearby airports in Nebraska as well as others in western Iowa and Kansas, said Jim Kjeldgaard, the airport’s operator.

Kjeldgaard estimated that at least 30 airplanes have flown more than 500 people since Friday, and the airport was still bustling on Monday morning.

“We’re going full steam today,” Kjeldgaard said. “It’s been a massive undertaking.”

He said pilots have taken passengers out of town to get to medical appointments, funerals and relatives who live elsewhere. They’ve also hauled water, food, toilet paper and other supplies. One pilot joked to Kjeldgaard that the airport was busier than Omaha’s Eppley Airfield, the state’s largest airport.

Most of the pilots heard of the effort by word of mouth and saw it as a chance to use their skills for a good purpose, said George Richmond, a flight instructor and former airline pilot. Richmond said he flew girls and their grandmother from Fremont to Lincoln on Sunday to unite them with family members.

“It’s a grassroots operation,” he said between flights in his Piper Comanche. “Pilots are doing it because it’s something we can do.”

Herb Johansen, a pilot from Bennington, removed the back two seats from his Piper Saratoga so he could haul water, diapers, clothing and food into town along with passengers — mostly college students from Midland University. He said the airplane traffic around Fremont is “hectic, maybe even semi-dangerous” because so many pilots are landing and taking off from the small airport.

Fremont City Administrator Brian Newton said it’s too early to say when the roads will reopen. Floodwaters from the Platte and Elkhorn rivers have forced the closure of U.S. Highways 77 and 275 on both the north and south sides of Fremont, and U.S. Highway 30 on the east and west sides of the city. Some Fremont police officers who live on the outskirts had to catch flights from the volunteer pilots so they could report to work, Newton said.

Just one lane of U.S. Highway 30 west of town wasn’t totally covered with water, and law enforcement limited traffic on the road to ensure a route for gas, food, water and other essentials.

Newton said officials are concerned that flooding may have undermined the integrity of the main bridge on U.S. Highway 77 that crosses the Platte River just south of Fremont.

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, who lives in Fremont, said he was working with the Trump administration in hopes of getting federal aid to Nebraska as quickly as possible. Sasse said he was concerned about the flood’s long-term impact and the problems that road damage could cause for farmers trying to get their products to market.

Sasse said his parents ended up stranded in Omaha during the flood and were offered a flight into town from a volunteer pilot. He said pilots have also shuttled in supplies, while on-the-ground volunteers filled sandbags to try to prevent the flood from spreading.

“I’m not surprised at all,” the senator said. “This is just the way Nebraskans are.”
___
Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

A group of high school students stand on a basketball court during a free throw. (Amanda Dickson/KS...
Amanda Dickson

Opinion: Is sportsmanship dead in high school basketball?

After a weekend basketball game, it's clear some of our students have a lot of learn when it comes to civility and sportsmanship.
12 hours ago
Powerade is hoping that a revamped recipe and new look will help finally unseat Gatorade from the t...
Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN

Is that Gatorade? Or Powerade? It may soon be hard to tell.

Powerade is hoping that a revamped recipe and new look will help finally unseat Gatorade from the top spot in the sports drink arena.
12 hours ago
US President Joe Biden discusses funding for the "Hudson Tunnel Project" at the West Side Rail Yard...
Elizabeth Weiler

FBI finds no classified documents at Biden’s Delaware vacation home

    (CNN) — The FBI has completed its search of President Joe Biden’s Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, home and no documents with classified markings were found, according to a source familiar with the matter. Biden’s personal attorney Bob Bauer confirmed earlier in the morning that investigators were searching the home. The search was planned and had the […]
12 hours ago
Police are investigating a double homicide that happened in Taylorsville overnight. According to Sg...
Simone Seikaly

Suspect arrested, one victim identified after shooting in Taylorsville

Taylorsville police have identified 21-year-old Eduardo Moreno Lujan as one of the victims of a shooting in Taylorsville on Monday night.
12 hours ago
Follow @SimoneSeikaly...
Simone Seikaly

Elk, again, tried to cross roads near I-215/I-80 interchange in SLC

The Utah Department of Transportation reports that a herd of around 40 elk is stranded on the east bench.
12 hours ago
Authorities scanning a remote Australian highway for a tiny missing radioactive capsule have found ...
Hilary Whiteman, CNN

Missing radioactive capsule from Rio Tinto mine found on Australian road

The capsule reportedly contained highly radioactive Caesium-137, and was discovered missing nearly a week ago.
12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
‘Angels of the sky’ offer flights into flooded Nebraska city