Military knew flood risks at Offutt Air Force Base, but didn’t act in time

In the aftermath of the Nebraska flood that inundated Offutt Air Force Base and effectively crippled operations, it seems hard to believe that the US government knew that the facility was in danger of flooding but seemingly did nothing.

Unfortunately, the USAF, federal and local officials knew all too well of the base’s vulnerability to floods, and a slow-moving bureaucratic process prevented the approval of plans to protect the base before the waters began to rise.

“During heavy rainfall, this area is prone to flooding, and flooding onto Offutt AFB may cause delays to missions and operations,” read a land use management plan written in 2015.

One of many areas near the southeast side of Offutt Air Force Base affected by flood waters on March 16, 2019. An increase in water levels of surrounding rivers and waterways caused by record-setting snowfall over the winter in addition to a large drop in air pressure resulted in widespread flooding across the state of Nebraska. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt. Rachelle Blake)

According to NBC News, the flooding ultimately submerged part of the airstrip and damaged several of the buildings. In fact, of the 10,000 personnel that have returned to the base for work, around 3,000 have been assigned temporary quarters due to their original buildings being inaccessible.

It is believed that it will be several months before the base returns to normal operations, and flight/base operations have mostly halted.

While attempts were made to try and halt the flooding -including 460 flood barriers and 235,000 sandbags deployed- the base eventually had to surrender to the elements.

“It was a lost cause,” said base spokeswoman Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake. “We gave up.”

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