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Energy news from Omaha Public Power District


2011 flood: Remembering response to historic event

May 27, 2016 | Paula Lukowski | Fort Calhoun Station, history, OPPD employees

Five years have passed since the historic flood of 2011 threatened three OPPD power plants, several substations and other key infrastructure.

The levels of water that flowed down the Missouri River basin were unprecedented. We wrestled with protecting $3 billion in public assets while continuing to carry out our core mission, safely and reliably delivering electrical service to more than 352,000 customers.

Many of those who fought the flood fight with us have since retired, but here’s a look back at the extraordinary tenacity and teamwork that got OPPD through the flood event.

“This was as close to being at war as we could ever be,” said Gary Gates, Omaha Public Power District CEO and president during the flood. “We were at war with the river. People were doing physical activity, and people on the front lines were making sacrifices. We had a supply group and a strategy group, and others were coordinating with cities, counties, customers and other entities.

“As CEO, I felt like a general at times,” Gates said. “We had an incredible amount of work to get done. I was asking so much of people, and they were giving it. I felt proud, but incredibly responsible for their welfare and for the welfare of our customers.”

Too much water

In more than a century of record-keeping, the Missouri River had never had more water than it did that spring, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

OPPD employees shared a common mantra as they fought the flooding: plan for the worst and hope for the best.

That’s exactly what was done at the utility’s three main baseload power plants: Nebraska City Station, North Omaha Station and Fort Calhoun Station. All three plants sit on the Missouri River. As a result, all three required swift and strategic action to protect the sites from floodwaters. So did numerous transmission lines and substations along the river.

Constant watch

There was plenty to do, and not always enough time in the day to do it. But employees worked long days and took on tasks they probably never imagined they’d have to do. They inspected levees for rodent holes, set up aqua berms, and shooed waders out of contaminated floodwaters that had spilled onto land outside of North Omaha Station.

For more information, see the commemorative issue of Flash.

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About Paula Lukowski

Paula Lukowski has more than 34 years of corporate communications experience. By far, her favorite aspect of that role has been profiling the great work done by OPPD employees and retirees. Paula and her husband, Mark, have two grown children, Rachel and John, a son-in-law, Josh, and two grandsons.

View all posts by Paula Lukowski >

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