Heavy rain, powerful winds and hail struck Hastings and the surrounding area early Friday morning in a storm system that kept residents up late with lightning and thunder and created big problems with road flooding in the northern part of Adams County.
Up to 7 inches of rain fell at locations in the county, and pea- to golf ball-size hail also was reported from the storm that struck the area about 3 a.m., said Ron Pughes, Adams County Emergency Management director, in a news release late Friday morning.
Greg Anderson, assistant highway superintendent for Adams County, said the county roads that received the most damage were straight north of Hastings.
“People need to watch out for flagged areas because we’re out of barricades again,” he said.
He started calling in county crews to work before 4 a.m.
“Several roads were closed due to water over the road and washing out the road,” Anderson said. “We’re going to be looking at some pretty substantial damages again.”
Roads in certain parts of Adams County already have sustained quite a bit of damage this year due to previous storms.
The Adams County Board of Supervisors approved on Aug. 6 hiring Big Red Bunks of Doniphan to help haul dirt to construction sites in the county.
Anderson said those sites where roads previously were washed out fortunately didn’t get hit too badly on Friday morning.
“All of our work that our contract haulers have been going to has been down in the southwest part of the county,” he said. “We’re going to keep plugging away at them come next week if at all possible.”
After the area north of Hastings was hit hard, water from the storm started flowing southeastward through creeks.
“I’m getting calls now that it’s over certain roads now that it wasn’t before,” Anderson said Friday afternoon. “It’s just going to have to run its path, and then we’ll see what it’s done. We have a lot of places north of Hastings where gravel’s washed off the road.”
Friday morning’s storm was loud, intense and punctuated by heavy wind. The National Weather Service reported a peak gust of 76 miles per hour at the Hastings Municipal Airport. A light helicopter parked at the airport was reported blown over at 2:59 a.m.
North of Pauline in southern Adams County, gusts estimated at 60-65 mph were reported between roughly 3:30 and 3:50 a.m.
Drifts of white hail remained visible on the ground Friday morning on Hastings’ west side, and cornfields just west of town showed severe crop hail damage. Damage was reported at locations including the YWCA of Adams County, 2525 W. Second St.; and Prairie Loft Center for Outdoor and Agricultural Learning, on DLD Road south of the Hastings Regional Center campus.
The Adams Central Public Schools near U.S. Highway 6/34 and Adams Central Avenue were closed for the day due to an overnight power outage. Power reportedly was restored to the campus early Friday morning, but too late to reverse the decision to cancel classes.
Superintendent Shawn Scott said damage was limited to some hail damage on vehicles. Scott said a rumor about the athletic wing flooding was false. Some water did seep in under doors, but there was no damage.
“I hate to have a day of school like this, but it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he said. “I appreciate everyone’s understanding.”
Hastings Middle School, Second Street and Marian Road, lost power briefly during the early morning, but power was restored around 6:30, said Jeff Schneider, superintendent of Hastings Public Schools. Schneider suspects hail covered up some drain pipes, causing leaks in the building.
No other HPS school buildings were damaged in the storm, he said.
While HPS buildings saw little damage, the middle school’s garden was destroyed. Jayson Stoddard, a middle school teacher and garden caretaker, changed his lesson for the day to one about “changing perspective” to keep the students positive.
Many of the students were heartbroken to see what had happened to the garden overnight, he said.
“It’s gone,” he said. “The garden looks like it went through a paper shredder.”
Students will be helping to clean up the garden on Monday evening.
Lee Vrooman, director of operations for Hastings Utilities, said most outages were west of Marian Road and farther west — into the Southern Hills and Westbrook neighborhoods and the village of Juniata.
HU crews started restoring electricity to that area beginning 7:30 a.m.
Industrial Park West sustained broken poles that crews still were replacing Friday afternoon.
Vrooman said there were a couple other isolated outages in west Hastings.
He said the outages were caused by lightning strikes causing fuses to blow and from high winds slapping power lines together.
Hastings city street crews were out clearing streets of debris at midmorning and planned to continually monitor and clean storm sewers heading into the weekend.
Leaves stripped from trees have the potential to clog the inlets, and city officials were hoping to avoid additional flooding in the event of more rainfall in coming days, the city said in its own midmorning news release.
City crews won’t be picking up downed branches from terraces like they did after previous storms this summer. The city landfill is open 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday for residents bringing out their own tree debris. Vehicles must be unloaded and out of the landfill by the stated closing times.
Meanwhile, Hastings police were reminding residents Friday morning not to drive through flooded streets.
At the Adams County Fairgrounds, where the Oregon Trail Rodeo was scheduled to begin Friday evening, Manager Jolene Laux said the arena received minor damage that would be repaired during the day on Friday.
Laux said the areas where the contestants would go within the arena were in fairly good shape.
“We did have some panels come down, and we’re working getting all that stuff back up — banners and stuff like that,” she said Friday morning. “Otherwise, the condition for the contestants is good.”
At Hastings High School, the scheduled football scrimmage was to go forward at 6:30 p.m. Friday on the practice field as planned. The Back to School Color Bash that was slated for 8:30-10:30 p.m. was canceled due to wet conditions in the area around the practice field.
The storm also caused damage to the building of the YWCA of Adams County.
Sonia Klouse, assistant executive director, said officials discovered that four garage doors had been damaged in the storm and an area housing equipment for the after-school program, The Zone, had been soaked.
“It’s pretty devastating,” she said. “We’re sad about the stuff for the kiddos.”
Luckily, she said, prom dresses toward the front of the facility weren’t damaged. The offices also weren’t damaged, so they were able to open as normal on Friday.
She said The Zone will begin on Monday as scheduled, but they will be short some items until they are replaced.
In the north part of the city, Greg Spady, owner of Jerry Spady Chevrolet GMC Cadillac, 2750 Osborne Drive East, said floodwaters intruded upon the business parking lot for the second time this year.
He said service appointments had to be canceled and the dealership had to close for a time Friday morning because both entrances to the parking lot were blocked by water over the road.
“We have this happen about every other year,” he said. “We have learned over the years to know when it will be an issue.”
Once they believed the water would be a problem on Friday, Spady said, they started moving cars off the lot and had about 98 percent of them out before the flooding reached the lot.
Spady said he felt lucky that they didn’t experience hail with the storm, which could have caused more damage.
By Friday afternoon, the waters had receded to allow the cars to be brought back onto the lot and the business to reopen.
According to the Nebraska Rainfall Assessment and Information Network, area rainfall totals for the 24-hour period that ended 7 a.m. Friday include 4.54 inches west of Doniphan, 4.02 inches about five miles northeast of Juniata, and 2.78 inches two miles west of Hastings.
The Grand Island-Hall County Emergency Management Agency issued a Friday morning news release warning that water was running over several county roads in the Doniphan-Alda- Wood River area.
At midmorning on Friday, Hastings Fire and Rescue was dispatched to help rescue officers of the Hastings Police Department who were stuck behind a flooded road.
Fire Chief Brad Starling said the officers had been out at a shooting range near Showboat Boulevard and 12th Street as floodwaters rose in the area.
“We were asked to assist in evacuating their training range at Showboat,” he said. “They found the road they had taken to get in there had flooded over.”
As firefighters coordinated rescue efforts, the officers were able to find a route out along higher ground.
But Starling said the issue highlighted another problem as the rising waters encroached upon a section of Showboat Boulevard.
Just as the officers did, Starling reminded motorists to pay attention to their surroundings and make sure not to drive over areas covered in water. If the road has washed out beneath, it could create a hazardous driving condition.
“It’s not worth driving through a flooded roadway,” he said. “You don’t know what’s going on underneath.”
If citizens should find themselves in a situation where they are stuck behind a flooded roadway, Starling said, they should seek high ground and call for help.
Motorists are urged to respect barricades and remember that gravel roads are extremely soft, so not much water is needed to push a vehicle off the road.
“If the people are going to get onto the county roads north and east of Hastings they need to be very, very careful,” said Anderson, assistant highway superintendent for Adams County. “It hit a swath in there, and it was a pretty direct hit.”
In both Adams and Hall counties, motorists are urged to use caution when driving. Adams County noted the potential for downed tree leaves and other debris to make roads slippery or otherwise pose travel hazards.
Pughes, the Adams County emergency manager, also urges residents cleaning up tree damage to follow safety procedures when moving, cutting or handling large limbs or trees.
All damage should be recorded photographically as soon as possible for insurance claim purposes, Pughes said.
Tribune journalists Tony Herrman, Will Vraspir, Jarad Johnson, John Huthmacher, Laura Beahm and Andy Raun contributed to this report.
Pacha Soap got out to an early lead during the first night of the 2019 Hastings Community Olympics.
The defending champions took all three top places during the first event Friday — basketball knockout.
“I feel great,” Pacha’s Greg Mol said afterward. “Not only did we sweep the competition, but we had scouted and planned our knock out team to have the zenith players out there and it showed on the court.”
He was joined on Pacha’s knockout team by Nate Meyers, Colton Roach and Alex Gentry.
In knockout, players line up single file and shoot free throws two at a time. If someone makes a free throw before the person shooting in front of him or her, the person in front is knocked out.
In the version played Friday, when a person was out anyone they had knocked out previously was allowed to return.
The field — four players each from six teams — was split among two half courts at the 18th Street Hastings Family YMCA. Each half court was whittled down to three players for a championship round with the six finalists.
The game ended when just three Pacha team members remained.
The entire competition lasted all of 20 minutes.
That finish earned Pacha 45 points — 20 points for first, 15 for second and 10 for third. All the teams each received five points for participation.
Other events Friday included pickle ball, bowling and quiz bowl. Saturday events include tank races, key log roll, volleyball, archery, scavenger hunt, capture the duck flag, miniature golf and tug-of-war.
Landon Arnold, recreation program coordinator for Hastings Parks and Recreation, wasn’t surprised Pacha took all three top spots in knock out.
“I know most of the people who work there and they’re all pretty athletic,” he said. “I figured they would be good at these types of events. They’re very competitive.”
With 21 members, Pacha had the largest Community Olympics team this year.
Arnold said all the other teams had between nine and 15 members.
Pacha also has participated in the Grand Island Community Olympics.
“At Pacha we really enjoy it from a culture standpoint because it gets people outside of the office, outside of production and helps us mingle with each other in ways we might not have done before,” Mol said of why he and his co-workers enjoy Community Olympics.
This is the second year for the Hastings Community Olympics.
The first year included the spot shot basketball game, which was won by the Hastings Tribune. In spot shot, only one team can participate on each half court at once.
“Spot shot was fine, but it was more everybody was sitting and watching as teams were going,” Arnold said. “In knock out you can get every team going at once.”
He was pleased so far with this year’s Hastings Community Olympics, compared to the 2018 competition, which had just two teams — Pacha and the Tribune.
“Last year was fun, but with six teams there’s maybe 30 people here and that’s awesome,” he said of the knock out court. “That’s what we want. We want these people to come, watch, cheer on their teams.”
LINCOLN — Nebraska’s highest court lifted one of the last major hurdles for the Keystone XL pipeline in the state on Friday when it rejected another attempt to derail the project by opponents who wanted to force the developer to reapply for state approval.
The Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the decision of regulators who voted in November 2017 to greenlight a route through the state. The court’s decision was a victory for the $8 billion project, which has been mired in lawsuits and regulatory hearings since it was proposed in 2008.
Despite the victory for Canada-based TC Energy, opponents vowed Friday that the legal fight to block construction was far from over, noting several pending federal lawsuits.
“The risky pipeline project’s fate is still very much in doubt, as three separate federal lawsuits continue to proceed that challenge the controversial project’s permits,” leading pipeline opposition group Bold Alliance said in a statement.
Friday’s ruling stemmed from the Nebraska Public Service Commission 3-2 vote nearly two years ago in favor of an “alternative route” for the project instead of developer TC Energy’s preferred pathway. Opponents filed a lawsuit arguing the company didn’t follow all the required procedures for the alternative route, in violation of state law.
Attorneys for the opponents argued that TC Energy’s application with the commission was valid only for its preferred route, and the company formerly known as TransCanada could seek approval only for one route at a time. Nebraska state attorneys disputed that claim, saying that the commission’s decision complied with the law and was in the public’s interest.
The high court on Friday sided with the state, saying the Public Service Commission is the agency responsible for determining which pipeline route is in the public interest, and that it did so after months of consideration.
“We find there is sufficient evidence to support the PSC’s determination that the (alternative route) is in the public interest,” Justice Jeffrey Funke wrote for the court.
An attorney for the opponents said they were weighing their legal options, including a possible federal lawsuit challenging the route Nebraska’s Public Service Commission approved.
“Now that the Supreme Court has gone ahead and affirmed approval of a route that was never applied for, that should trigger an analysis of these new 83 miles for which no evidence was adduced and no federal or state studies have ever been conducted,” Omaha attorney Brian Jorde said.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican and longtime supporter of the project, issued a statement saying it’s “time to build the pipeline” and that doing so would bring jobs and tax revenue to the state — an assertion opponents repudiate.
If completed, the pipeline would carry oil from Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would connect to an existing pump station in Steele City, Nebraska. From there it would continue through Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas until it reaches Gulf Coast refineries. Business groups and some unions support the project as a way to create jobs and reduce the risk of shipping oil by trains that can derail.
The pipeline faces intense resistance from environmental groups, Native American tribes and some landowners along the route who worry about its long-term impact on their groundwater and property rights. But in Nebraska, many affected landowners have accepted the project and are eager to collect payments from the company.
President Barack Obama’s administration studied the project for years before finally rejecting it in 2015 because of concerns about carbon pollution.
President Donald Trump reversed that decision in March 2017. Federal approval was required because the route crosses an international border.
Bold Alliance President Jane Kleeb called on the Nebraska Legislature to intervene, saying the property rights of farmers and sovereign rights of Native American tribes “should trump Big Oil’s land grab.”
The chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Larry Wright Jr., said the ruling disregarded the potential destruction of the tribe’s cultural resources.
TC Energy issued a news release describing the ruling as an “important step as we advance” toward building the pipeline, but spokeswoman Robynn Tysver could not immediately say whether the ruling would promptly open up the project to construction.