Valley mayor: Flood was “not the most harmful abnormality”

Valley, Nebraska Mayor Carroll Smith, 80, sits at his desk at city hall. Just one week after the flooding occurred, impacting much of his town, Smith agreed to an interview addressing the flooding, how it occurred, the seriousness of it, and climate change. Photo by Dalton Carper

Just one week after flood waters creeped into the streets of Valley, Nebraska, Valley Mayor Carroll Smith, 80, said the town was already on its way to regaining much of what was damaged.

Smith was the mayor of Valley in both the 1970s and from 2012 to present making him a unique political individual who has faced two major flooding events.

He said for the Platte River flood of 1978, much like this one, his first priority was safety of his constituents. Second on his list was utilities and third was of course making it through the event with as little damage of the town as possible.

He went on to say, between his jokes about growing old and flashbacks to his earlier years in office, that after the flood of 1978, Valley’s local levee, the union dike, was made 10-foot taller and 4-foot wider. Breaking again this year, he made sure to make clear that the flood of 1978 was surprisingly more harmful.

“The flood this year was abnormal to have happened, but it was not the most harmful abnormality we have ever faced.”

Most of the damage that Valley faced, Smith said, was done underground, adding that sewage was a large aspect of the town that was impacted negatively saying “a lot of work still needs to be done to fix it.”

“The way Valley works,” Smith said, “is that the town will never flood, at least not in my lifetime, from rain and snow melt; instead, the ice jams on the dike, caused as a result of cold water temperatures, is always the cause of flooding in Valley.”

This is huge, Smith added, because it means that it is a concern the town faces almost every year in the very early spring.

This concern is an expensive one to have.

Economically, Smith said the city, still yet to clean up a majority of the mess, has already taken 42, twenty-yard hauls, of garbage to landfills. Racking up approximately $20,000 of bills with local dumpster companies, the town of Valley was greatly affected in this aspect.

Furthermore, these problems are not going anywhere, anytime soon.

When asked about climate change, Smith, a Democrat, said “We need to get our head out of our rear-end and address it.”

Unsure as to what is exactly is causing climate change, Smith was reluctant to have a guess at the culprit. When pushed, he said fossil fuels is his best guess.

“Everyone is slowly getting on board with the thought of climate change, but not quick enough,” Smith said. “It is down to the individuals to fix it, and as an 80 year old man, it is quickly becoming less of a problem for me to solve; it’s your generation’s problem now.”

These problems are the type that the residents of Valley have not only experienced before, but obstacles they will have to face in both the immediate and distant futures as well.

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has been in Valley since flooding subsided helping uninsured residents regain some of their lost goods.

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