In this file:


·         'The flood kind of kicked our butt': Flooding turned grassland into sandy beaches on Mike Kaminski's family farm

·         After losing 66 animals to 'wall of water,' farmer Richard Panowicz is starting to get over 'heartbreak' of flood



'The flood kind of kicked our butt': Flooding turned grassland into sandy beaches on Mike Kaminski's family farm


By Lori Potter, Kearney Hub (NE)

May 8, 2019


LOUP CITY — Calves napped Thursday afternoon while nestled in warm sand on the west bank of the Middle Loup River south of Loup City.


Pointing to one that was stretched out on its side for the most sand and sun exposure, Mike Kaminski joked that it was like “a salamander on a warm rock.”


The sandy beach was a grassland until eight weeks ago, when a flood of water and ice swept through an area along the river Kaminski said had never flooded in the 47 years his dad, Darrell, has lived on the family farm.


The always-dry grasslands along the river were the ideal place to hold cows and older calves until spring pastures were ready. Then on March 13, the grasslands filled with water 5- to 6-feet deep that carried away 36 cow-calf pairs.


Kaminski said only a third of the calves and three cows have been recovered.


“I’ve never seen water come in here, ever,” he said, while standing among other cows and calves lounging in the same area.


Kaminski explained that it was the timing, not the volume, of rain that created the tragedy. None of the rain could soak into the still-frozen ground.


He and his dad expected 250 calves this winter and early spring. They had a 102 percent calf crop prior to the flood, thanks to a set of twins, “and then the flood kind of kicked our butt,” Kaminski said.


He added that they have saved every calf born since the flood.


By 6 a.m. March 13, some cattle already were isolated by water. Family members and neighbors removed the six cow-calf pairs they could reach.


“We just watched the water rise,” Kaminski told the Hub a week after the flood. When the Middle Loup broke up and moved in around 3 p.m., the family watched cows jump into the water while trying to get away from the ice chunks and then float away with their calves.


It was a terrible sight for any Nebraska ranch family because, Kaminski said, cattle are an extension of his family.


“That was probably the most humbling thing. You felt so helpless ... and so in shock, like somebody hit you in the head with a hammer,” he added.


The priority then was...


“It was surviving, not thriving.” ...


more, including video report [3:43 min.]



After losing 66 animals to 'wall of water,' farmer Richard Panowicz is starting to get over 'heartbreak' of flood


By Lori Potter, Kearney Hub (NE)

May 8, 2019


ROCKVILLE — Maybe it was the rare warm, sunny, calm spring afternoon that lifted Richard Panowicz’s spirits Thursday or the meadowlark singing from a post on a new section of pasture fence along the east side of the Middle Loup River a few miles north of Rockville.


Or maybe Panowicz and his Sherman County neighbors who graze cattle and grow crops on both sides of the river finally feel some sense of normal returning to their lives since a devastating flood eight weeks ago today.


“I’m doing good, excellent,” Panowicz said as he took a break from what has seemed like endless fence building since the March 13 winter cyclone’s rain and high winds combined with ice and still-frozen ground to produce the flood.


“Nobody got hurt. We’re good and healthy,” he said. “It was a heartbreak at the time and then you start getting over it.


“It’s like losing family members.”


He and his wife, Loraine, who have lived 31 years at their farmstead a couple of miles north of the pasture, saw more than 60 head of cattle swept away from roughly 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. March 13.


“I went to Loup City and was coming home and saw the wall of water to the north of us, and then it was just ‘boom,’” Panowicz said, as large chunks of ice — some 3-feet thick and the size of an extended cab pickup — began to break apart on the frozen river.


“This was the worst I’ve ever seen for destruction. A tornado cuts a narrow swath for a few miles ... This came up from north of here and went all the way to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers,” he said.


Neither he nor his neighbors along the river were prepared for the never-seen-before event.


The explosion of water and ice took away 56 of his calves, nine Angus cows and a Charolais bull. “There are some we are not going to find because they got sanded over or washed downstream,” Panowicz explained.


In a Hub interview a week after the flood, he said he’d probably sell his remaining cows and get out of the cattle business. Now the plan is to continue for a year or two to build back his herd...