November30 , 2022

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    The term isn’t common, in fact I’d never heard of it until it wreaked havoc across the Great Plains a few weeks ago, but meteorologists know the term. It’s one strong storm system.

    The strength of a storm is measured by its central pressure – the lower the number, the stronger the storm. This particular storm gained strength in just 24 hours rising to 968 millibars – just shy of Hurricane Florence (958) when it made landfall.

    Cities and towns were engulfed in floodwaters, inaccessible by the outside world except by helicopter or boat.

    And, this storm hit our Nebraska neighbors causing widespread devastation. The nightmare exploded across the landscape dumping heavy snow and rain on top of snow-packed, frozen ground which offered no place for more precipitation.

    Howling winds, emergency declarations, evacuations, and horrific flooding resulted leaving hundreds of homeless people displaced in shelters. Levees failed. Rivers soared to record levels in the worst flooding in decades. Fences and trees were leveled. Bridges and thoroughfares were literally washed away.

    Cities and towns were engulfed in floodwaters, inaccessible by the outside world except by helicopter or boat. When the Spencer Dam failed, the resulting 11′ wall of water carrying huge ice chunks made its way downstream, leveling everything in its path.

    Some of the hardest hit by the enormity of it all were the children.

    Family members were stranded away from other family members. Neighbors stepped in to care for neighbors. Some stepped up to help in shelters when they couldn’t return to their own homes.

    The town of Fremont ran out of fuel and nearly ran out of food when it became an island for several days. Travel was possible within town, but those who were there couldn’t leave, and those who weren’t, couldn’t get there.

    Some of the hardest hit by the enormity of it all were the children. Teachers tell of constant tears and fears during the school day, as little ones wondered if their parents would be able to get to the school to pick them up at the end of the day.

    Nebraska farmers and ranchers are a resilient, self-sufficient people, but their losses were monumental during this storm and the aftermath.

    Nebraska farmers and ranchers are a resilient, self-sufficient people, but their losses were monumental during this storm and the aftermath. The calving season – already made difficult due to heavy snows and brutal temperatures in February – was threatened by rapidly-rising water and ice. Farmers and ranchers were cut off from their livestock, and there was nothing they could do. One rancher said the agricultural industry is in crisis. Truly, this historic loss (estimated to be over $1 billion) will impact the food on our tables across the nation.

    Pictures don’t do justice in times of such disaster. Try to picture this: trees trunks stripped of bark and any low-hanging branches by an onslaught of mini-glaciers in a sea of fast-moving and frigid water. Cars, homes, and farm equipment, destroyed. Some homes left standing but with basements filled with displaced mud and sand.

    Whitecaps were visible on what was once prairieland. Imagine newborn calves frozen to the ground, dead. Prize-winning bulls – prime breeding stock – drowned, then buried beneath mud and sand from upstream. Surviving cattle, seriously traumatized, impacting milk production as well as future breeding attempts.

    The stories emerging from Nebraska are truly unbelievable, however the story I tell offers a miniscule drop-in-the-bucket of hope thanks to the kindness and generosity of a few of our local residents.

    A local friend recently posed a question on social media, asking if anyone was traveling to Nebraska soon. I responded, and that’s where this part of the story begins.

    Photo Credit: Marilyn Hendrix (Standing L-R: Marilyn Hendrix, Lis Johnson, Brit Farley, Karen Sitts, Beverly Alstatt, Dorothy Sitts, Mary Peterson, Connie McCue. Seated L-R: Linda Wankum, Shirley Morris)

    TOTO LOVE
    Shirley Morris is part of a local non-profit ministry, Toto Love, where volunteers make tied quilts to send to people in need, worldwide. They had quilts for the people of Nebraska.
    The organization’s name speaks of their purpose: TOTO = To Others Through Others. LOVE is three-fold – the love in their hearts, the love sent to others, and the love of God (the impetus for this ministry).

    “Most quilts are donated to Lutheran W