Deadly flood waters in central Nebraska took its vengeance on the Niobrara River and surrounding areas early Thursday morning. Overwhelming ice and water breached the Spencer Dam and Highway 281 bridge just south of Spencer at approximately 5:30 a.m. Meanwhile, cows are stranded on small islands in the middle of the Platte River in flooded central Nebraska.
During the early morning hours of March 14, 2019 the Spencer Dam was compromised causing the Niobrara Bridge approximately 23 miles north of O’Neill to fail. All emergency personnel in Boyd and Holt Counties were activated.
Holt County Sheriff Ben Matchett and O’Neill Assistant Fire Chief Roger Miller made their way to the dam site along with an O’Neill Police Department officer and Holt County Sheriff’s deputy.
On arrival the destructions of the dam and highway was confirmed.
Also lost was Angel’s Straw Bale Saloon and numerous structures including houses in the valley below the dam.
One male victim was rescued from his house by the O’Neill Fire Department using a boat and rope rescue equipment after he was found trapped by flood waters.
Another male victim, Kenneth Angel who resided in a house close to the saloon, is believed to be lost to the flood. Search and rescue efforts were hampered by inclement weather conditions and rapidly moving flood waters created by the breach in the dam. The search will continue as weather conditions improve and as more resources become available.
“I have been by the Spencer Dam numerous times and what has happened here has to be a once in a lifetime event. Outside of what remains of the power house, their is no real reference to anything. It is just all gone,” said O’Neill Fire Chief Terry Miles.
At this time the power house of the dam remains standing and a small portion of the bridge on the Boyd County side of the river is visible. The approach and most the bridge are gone on the Holt County side of the river.
Up river to the west, the bridge north of Stuart crossing the Niobrara River also was destroyed due to the area flooding.
Highway 281 will be closed indefinitely as well as other roads in the county. Travel in Holt County is not advised and Highway 281 is blocked off in O’Neill going north.
Meanwhile, in the Platte River, near Fremont, Nebraska, still living cows are being stranded on small islands formed by flood waters.
Scary and terrifying for these poor cattle! And for the farmers too!