Official State of Nebraska site logo


50 years of Interstate logo

Return to History
Return to Main NDOR


Regular Acrobat Reader Download
Help with PDF's for those with visual disabilities


The Flood
Photos taken July 6, 2002
in and around Ogallala, NE

I-80 Flood logo-no action

I-80 Quick Facts

  • Interstate 80 is one of the two most heavily traveled transcontinental highways in the United States. The Interstate is linked to about three-quarters of the estimated $2.8 billion that travelers spent last year in Nebraska.

  • On an average non-summer day, more than 15,000 vehicles pass by Overton, about midway across the state. In the summer, the daily average surges to more than 20,000.

  • Of the main east-west routes, only I-40 carries as much traffic. Interstate 70 sees about 12,600 a day on average during the summer in western Kansas, while Interstate 90 logs about 7,500 across western South Dakota.

The Rains -  July 6, 2002

“ (The storm) just sat here and rained and rained.”
– Dave Wert, National Weather Service, North Platte, NE

Early reports called it a “500 Year Flood”. A few days later it had grown into a “1000 Year Flood”.  Whatever it’s called, it will be just fine with Keith County residents, I-80 travelers, area contractors, and Department of Roads employees if they don’t see another storm like it during either of those timeframes.

According to the North Platte National Weather Service Office, who issued the first flash flood warning at 6:29 am MDT, the storm was created by the same northward push of tropical air that caused massive flooding in San Antonio, TX, earlier the same week.  When the system reached the Ogallala, Nebraska, area it stalled out.

The heavy rainfall started about 1 am CDT on Saturday, July 6, 2002. By the time it tapered off (around 11 am), up to 10 inches of rain had doused the drought stricken area. It poured through the early morning hours onto the farmland south and southwest of Ogallala. It came down so fast that the parched earth could not absorb it. The run-off surged through canals, streams, and ditches, gaining strength as it tried to make its way past the Interstate highway to the South Platte River. The result was a flood that threatened anything that got in the way – farmland, mobile homes, cars, bridges, culverts, and roads. The rising waters quickly turned the dry Western Canal into a torrent. That torrent swelled over Interstate 80 just east of the Ogallala interchange.

(Click on each thumbnail below to see a larger view)

Comfort Inn at the Ogallala Interchange

Another view of the Interchange

Truck parked at the Interchange. Note the buckled pavement.

View of road to Grant, just southeast of Brule

Wendy's parking lot at the Interchange

Same view of the parking lot as the waters recede

Aerial view of the damaged approaches showing the flood waters receding

State Patrol personnel examine one of the damaged approaches

Receding flood waters rush through a culvert and tear out the surrounding earth

Traffic begins to back up as emergency crews rush to establish detour routes

Aerial view of the general flood area

National Guard troops help direct traffic on the detour routes
Some of these photos were supplied by the Nebraska State Patrol
Thanks to the Omaha World Herald for allowing us to use some material from their stories about the flood
Contact the NDOR Webmaster