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Evacuations In Mills, Fremont Counties

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By Joe Foreman, Editor

Mandatory evacuation orders issued last week forced over  700  residents of western Mills and Fremont Counties to leave their homes.

    More than 600 Fremont County residents living west of Interstate 29 were told to leave their homes Wednesday morning because of concerns about rising floodwater in the Missouri River. On Thursday, Mills County households west of Interstate 29 and south of Gaston Ave. received mandatory evacuation notices. Over 100 Mills County residents were given until Friday at 4 p.m. to leave.
    Mills County Public Health Administrator and Public Information Officer Sheri Bowen said the evacuation decision was made by the county’s Emergency Operation Center team.
    “There were a lot of us at the table. With the advice of the county engineer, the sheriff and Larry Hurst (Mills County Emergency Management Coordinator), we decided it was time,” Bowen said. “Some of those roads were obviously impassable. Others we were more worried about accessibility to an evacuation route being jeapordized.
    “The mandatory evacuation was made with safety in mind. We realize it’s hard and frustrating for people and we’re trying to be as understanding of that as we can, but safety is the bottom line here – safety for those folks, safety for our emergency responders and safety for the people that are out there monitoring the situation.”
    Bowen said the response to the evacuation order by those residents directly affected has been mixed.
    “A large number of those folks had already relocated,” Bowen said. “I think the folks that we notified down on Kane and Karnes were heavily flooded and anticipating it. I think the big concern for people is the power issue. We’re trying to leave power on as long as possible. A lot of folks have sump pumps going and want to make sure they can keep those operating.”
    Bowen said keeping electrical power on in the flooding areas is a day-to-day situation.
    “It’s dependent on the flooding conditions on those roads,” she said. “ We’re meeting with the power company regularly to talk about what the safety risks are and how soon it needs to be shut off.”
    Bowen said two weekend thunderstorms that produced over 4 inches of rainfall and ping-pong ball-sized hail in Glenwood and western Mills County has only worsened an already problematic situation.
    “It’s big. We’ve seen a big difference in water levels down there already (since the storms),” Bowen said. “It just exaggerates the problem. It just makes the groundwater accumulation that much bigger. There’s nowhere for that water to go.”
    Bowen said Mills County residents who have sustained flood-related property damage or have evacuated their homes should notify the Mills County Communications center at 527-4871. Residents with flood-related questions or concerns should call 211. Cellular telephone users with a 402 prefix may call 402-444-6666 if they are unable to access the flood hotline when they dial 211.
    An emergency shelter for Mills County residents displaced by the flood opened last week at East Mills High School in Malvern, but was closed Sunday because the facility was not being utilized. Bowen said the decision to house the shelter in Malvern instead of Glenwood was made several weeks ago.
    “We initially went with it (Malvern) as our primary site we would use when and if we needed one because of the potential risk initially with the (Glenwood) city wells,” Bowen said. “Right now, they’ve done a really great job of berming them in. I think their prevention the last few weeks has been excellent. We probably could have used a Glenwood site, but in all honesty, the Malvern gym is not as busy this time of year.”
    Despite Sunday’s closure, Bowen said shelter services are available to any displaced Mills County resident or family through the American Red Cross.
    Mills County residents may access the latest flood-related information online at www.millscoia.us.