Jerry and Marilyn Mohr’s son Kurt called his parents at 9:30 p.m. on March 19, 2019. Kurt works with the Loup River Power District, and he was with a group sandbagging where the water comes into the canal from the Loup River along Highway 22 near Genoa, Nebraska.
At 2 a.m., Kurt called his parents again. The river was getting out of hand. Then, at 4 a.m., he called yet again. The sandbagging group had left just in time. The breach had broken and sand, debris and an unfathomable amount of water was pouring into Jerry and Marilyn’s farm.
“We drove around, and the water was over the highway, so we could not get to the flooded farm,” Marilyn said, recalling the worst of the spring floods.
“There were big, rolling waves going through. It was really incredible,” Jerry added.
Jerry, who has been farming in the area his entire life, said the farm flooded partially only once before, in 1966.
“That time, the river just ran for a short day,” he said. “This time, the river ran a good two and a half to three weeks through there before they could get it stopped.”
Seeing the flood damage to the farm for the first time, Jerry said, was like, “a massive explosion going off.”
Marilyn has been farming with Jerry since the Genoa High School sweethearts were married.
“Jerry kept saying, ‘I think it really tore it up,’” she said. “When I saw it, it was horrendous.”
The entire farm is 118 acres — 70 of those were severely impacted, where water cut into the land up to 20 feet deep.
“It was like a mini Grand Canyon,” Marilyn said. “It took six weeks just to clear the sand off … It was a miraculous thing, the grain bin was retained and a week before we had just emptied the corn. There were a lot of people worse off.”
As part of the process to apply for disaster assistance, Jerry said 30 different entities had the right to come in and look at the area. The Nebraska Historical Society and a Native American group out of Oklahoma were among them because the Mohrs live in an area where there was a large Pawnee settlement. It took six weeks for them to complete their assessment. While the Mohrs paid for the cleanup work, they were still awaiting disaster assistance as the year wrapped up.
Effects of the flood will be long-lasting.
“It really changed the entire soil structure on the farm,” Jerry said.
They had to add a lot of sand as fill. While they were able to plant a cover crop of rye and turnips, it went in really late and just barely came up before the end of the growing season. Much of their equipment got stuck in the wet soil when trying to do fieldwork, and hundreds of cottonwood trees were uprooted, depositing sticks and other debris downstream.
Jerry and Marilyn’s goal is to get a portion of the farm planted this season, but there is still a lot of dirt work to be done and water holes to fix.
“We need to get those crops in to get the soil built back up. I am not sure it will be halfway farmable even next year,” Jerry said.
“The value of the farm dropped substantially,” Marilyn added. “But, you know what? We are still alive and kicking with food on the table. We’ll be fine.”
“It’s definitely a learning experience,” Jerry said in closing. “Right now, I would say yes, it could happen again because it happened twice in my lifetime. I hope it never does. It depends upon Mother Nature and how she treats us. It will be an adventure.”
Kerry Hoffschneider can be reached at email@example.com.
This story is part of the Midwest Messenger’s Rising Above flood relief efforts. To donate to this producer, send checks Nebraska Relief Fund, c/o Washington County Bank, P.O. Box 238, 303 S. 13th St., Tekamah NE 68061. Please designate the producer’s name on your payment.