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Last updated 6:46AM ET
June 24, 2018
Nebraska News
Nebraska News
Hamburg residents anxiously wait to see if Missouri River will reach town
(NET Radio) -

"I believe by sometime tomorrow we'll see water on the levee, and we'll just see how the elevations come up."

Colonel Bob Ruch, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha district, stands a few yards from a stretch of brand-new levee. Tractors are lined up for about a mile, pulling loads of clay and dumping them along the wall.

"The quality of this levee and the material is excellent," he said. "It's obviously almost to the standard we'd build a permanent levee too. So very, very pleased with the work we've been able to do."

Ruch is working with volunteers and private contractors to keep the rising river away from the city of Hamburg, just a mile or so west. Two partial levee breaches along the river last week, and a full breach this week just five miles west of Hamburg have put the town in urgent jeopardy.

Vicki Sjulin is the owner of the Blue Moon Bar and Grill - a family-owned local staple since 1972. The restaurant is open for business, in a town mostly filled with construction workers, along with residents keeping an eye on their boarded-up homes.

"We don't know what we're going to do," she said. "We do have a plan, evacuation plan A, B, C, D."

The pub is surrounded by its own levee - walled-up with sandbags.

"We're maybe overboard on our levee, but you know, we wanted to stay dry," Sjulin said. "And I think we're going to stay dry, whether we have water around us or not. But the real problem here is once there's water all around our levee, we lose power, so we're still losing business."

Sjulin her home is far enough away from the water to be safe. But she sees people coming into her pub everyday who might have nowhere to go.

"It's just a wait-and-see," she said. "No one knows how many levees north of us are going to break no one knows. So we could be getting water from all directions, we don't know."

Even if the new levee does hold back the river, the fight's not over. It was built in a week, and though Ruch assured it's as sturdy as a levee can be, its strength will be tested against several weeks of high water.

"Once you get the levee in, you continue the fight," he said. "You look for seepage. You have patrols out here on the levee, looking for boils and things like that. I mean, we're doing that along the entire Missouri basin right now."

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