At the end of spring break, senior McKenna Hotovy returned to campus from Omaha, Nebraska, in the trunk of a Jeep. Carless, it was her only option.
Just days earlier, while she was in Florida enjoying sunny skies, beaches and warm weather, floodwaters had surrounded her hometown of Fremont, Nebraska. When she flew back to Omaha, her brother called and told her to stay put. All roads between them were either flooded or washed out.
“We’ve had flooding before from bad rainstorms in the summer but never feet and feet of water,” Hotovy said.
Between March 14 and 16, the Midwest, specifically Nebraska, Iowa, and eastern South Dakota, experienced record flooding from simultaneous snowfall, rainfall and snowmelt.
With roughly 79,000 miles of rivers, Nebraska has more miles of waterways than any other state, according to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
Situated between the Platte River to the south and the Elkhorn River to the north, Fremont, with a population of around 26,500, briefly became an island.
The floodwaters washed out houses on the south side of the city, submerged fields, took away barns, stranded and drowned livestock and contaminated private lakes with Asian carp.
Hotovy wasn’t alone. Sophomore Maya Feenstra and junior Adam Dykman also call Fremont home.
Like Hotovy, Feenstra spent break away from Fremont, but she said witnessing the aftermath of the flooding from Facebook and Twitter while in a cabin in Colorado was agonizing.
“I want to be home, and I want to help,” Feenstra said. “My heart yearns for the community, and it’s hard to help from here.”
Both Hotovy and Feenstra drove to Fremont and left their clothes and cars at home and set off for break in before leaving for Florida and Colorado, respectively. As of March 18, they both were still carless and missing most of their clothes. Hotovy said she got her car and clothes back on March 23.
“I don’t have anything,” Feenstra said. “I only have what I took to Colorado.”
Dykman, a forward on the men’s basketball team, drove to Fremont to rest after this year’s season. Instead, as the rains came and stayed, he said the flooding hit the city when most people were unprepared.
He wanted to help sandbag but was told to stay inside because the city had too many volunteers.
Dykman returned to Sioux Falls on March 18 after finding a back road out of the city. He missed a few classes, but he said that’s mere inconvenience compared to what happened to other people.
“It was tough for a lot of other people who actually had their homes and their families affected,” Dykman said. “I just felt so bad for those people.”
Hotovy, Feenstra and Dykman said their houses were unaffected.
McKenna said Fremont’s three grocery stores started to run out of supplies after the flood. The National Guard had to fly in food on March 17.
McKenna said the Red Cross is using an old JCPenney as a temporary shelter for people who lost their homes and people are taking care of other people’s livestock that was stranded.
Feenstra said it will take a long time for Fremont and Nebraska to recover and that she is proud of how quickly people started helping each other.
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