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Buttermilk Road

County roads across the area, including Buttermilk Road in Dawes County, pictured here, took a beating this spring during two blizzards and frequent heavy rains. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to make site visits across northwest Nebraska soon to determine the area's share of disaster relief aid. 

The recovery phase from spring blizzards and rain events will take another step forward when representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency make site visits.

Region 23 Emergency Management Director Nan Gould said Monday that FEMA has made some exploratory calls and will complete scoping meetings during the first week of July in Dawes, Sioux, Sheridan and Box Butte counties. Those meetings will include site visits and result in the agency and local officials writing projects for repairs and reimbursement through the federal disaster declaration.

There are currently no solid estimates on how much damage to public infrastructure was caused by the blizzards and flooding. Gould said those figures will become available as FEMA completes its visits and writes the projects based on the agency’s findings.

The Dawes County Commissioners, however, did transfer $100,000 from its general fund to the road fund last week, citing damage from the storms and subsequent flooding as reason for a shortfall of funds in the road budget.

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Blizzards in March and April dumped snow across northwest Nebraska, and the subsequent snowmelt, followed by heavy rains, caused flooding, further complicating matters. All four counties were forced to close roads as they were inundated with floodwaters. Roads were under water in some areas, gravel floated away, washouts appeared and culverts washed out. At one point, Dawes County had 34 roads closed due to damage. The old show barn at the Dawes County Fairgrounds also sustained damage from the snow load and high winds and is a total loss.

The federal disaster declaration will allow the counties and cities within their confines to recover a portion of the costs for repairing public infrastructure.

Region 23 Emergency Management has also signed new declarations for Dawes, Sheridan and Box Butte counties as the result of flooding that occurred May 16, Gould said. The state is conducting a preliminary assessment to determine if the three counties can meet their respective thresholds for damages. Gould said officials from all three counties believe those thresholds will be met, though again no total damage amount is available as yet.

Box Butte must meet a threshold of damages of $42,744.24, while Dawes County’s tally must reach $34,777.96. Sheridan County’s threshold is $20,672.82 to qualify for disaster relief.

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