Chinook helicopters assist sandbagging operation at Cooper Nuclear Plant

NEMAHA – Nemaha became the base of operations this week for the Nebraska Army National Guard to help stabilize the levee around Cooper Nuclear Station.

18 guard members were using two CH47 Chinook Helicopters to fly four to six bag fulls of sandbags at a time to fill low areas of the levee that experienced overtopping on Saturday during the Missouri River flooding across southeast Nebraska, southwest Iowa and northwest Missouri.

Cooper employee Jeff Jones says the plant was never in jeopardy by flood water. The sandbagging they are doing now is a precaution for possible future rising waters.

“We were still allowed to go to work, as far as essential personnel. The road was passible. We had district vehicles taking us back-and-forth for access. At no time was the plant in any jeopardy. We actually never came down in power. We’re still at 100-percent power. We reached the level where we were to make the decision. We got the river held at that level. We didn’t have to proceed with shutdown. We’ve stayed online. No threat to the plant at all.”

Using helicopters was more safe and efficient to cover 4,000 feet of the “jelly-like” levee, according to Jones. He hopes the project will be done by Sunday.

On Wednesday, a Chinook helicopter was used to drop huge, round bales of hay to cattle stranded in Colfax County. The Guard’s last aerial hay bale drop was during the blizzard of 1949. In 1979, the Guard via 18-wheeler hauled 500 tons of needed hay.

50 people, including volunteers and Cooper employees, were filling sandbags in Nemaha. 40 more people were placing sandbags at the plant.

Sgt. First Class Jeremy Borrell, with the Nebraska Army National Guard, describes how they were able to fly the sandbags to Cooper.

“When they come in, what we have is, individuals on the ground that have to anticipate the static electricity from the aircraft. Once that has been completed, then we’ve got several individuals that are actually hooking up the sandbags to the aircraft. Once they have that complete, they move out from underneath the aircraft. The aircraft is then able to lift off and safely fly those to the nuclear power plant.”

National Guard soldiers from Mead, Omaha, Hastings, Lincoln and Minnesota assisted in the effort.

Minnesota governor sends helicopter, crew to Nebraska

World-Herald News Service

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has sent Minnesota Army National Guard troops to Nebraska to help deal with flooding.

Walz signed an executive order Thursday in response to Nebraska’s request for helicopter support. Minnesota sent one CH-47 Chinook helicopter with 10 crew members to support flood response operations in Nebraska.

Walz is a Nebraska native and retired Minnesota National Guard member.

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