Steve Harshman wants nothing more than to return home after historic flooding along the Elkhorn River damaged his house just east of Nickerson.
But the Dodge County resident has no road to lead him there.
“Even if they can get my house fixed, I can't get to it,” Harshman said.
Harshman's house at 1585 County Line Road sits just south of state Highway 91, which was severely damaged during the flood. Crews with Goree Excavating are in the process of repairing the highway, which was washed out. Pooling water still remains on either side of the highway.
County Line Road, which is maintained by the Washington County Roads Department, also received significant damage.
“Right now, part of that intersection is missing,” Highway Superintendent Bill Hansel said. “We have to wait for that part of the highway to get finished before we can get started.”
Hansel expects his crews could start repairs on the road north of the highway soon, but Harshman's side will have to wait.
“I don't want to interfere with the state's job of getting the highway open,” Hansel said.
In the meantime, clean up crews and contractors have used skid loaders to drive through a field to access Harshman's property.
“It's a mess,” he said. “I've got major foundation issues.”
Rescued by boat
When the Elkhorn River began to rise March 14, Harshman didn't even consider evacuating. His home, which was built in 1928, was elevated. The main floor was three feet off the ground, he said.
“That's the one part I was very fortunate,” Harshman said. “If the house wasn't built that way, it most certainly would have (had water on the main level).”
In 25 years of living along the river, water had never gotten inside Harshman's house. The closest it got was 150 feet away, he said.
Harshman stayed in his home for five days without power. But then, the foundation collapsed.
“That was the first time I got scared,” he said.
Firefighters from Arlington, Blair and Fort Calhoun used boats to rescue both Harshman and his neighbors, Don and Carol Heuerman, who also live on County Line Road.
“We're very grateful for those who saved us,” he said.
Waiting for repairs
After the floodwaters receded, Harshman initially had to walk through fields to get to his house. He returned to find two feet of mud in his basement. All of his personal property that had been stored there was destroyed.
Crews have since cleaned the basement out. Now, he's in the process of getting funds from FEMA. Harshman also had flood insurance.
But he's still waiting for a final engineer's report before work can begin on the house. Without a road, contractors will continue to trek through the field. While the house may be repaired, Harshman said it may be a while before power is restored. He was told crews from Omaha Public Power District will not go to a property without a road.
Until then, Harshman will wait. To his credit, he is understanding and sympathetic to the roads department.
“Their hands are tied until Highway 91 is fixed,” he said. “It's all going to depend on the weather, I think. They could make some progress.”