CASS COUNTY, Neb. — There has been a number of drownings in the local area the past couple weeks. A few days ago a 43-year-old man drowned at Two Rivers Recreation Area. A month ago, a 41-year-old man drowned trying to help two boys in the Platte River.
These alarming recent drownings have raised questions as to why. John Winkler of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District says it goes back to the flooding.
"A lot of the lakes, the area lakes, were flooded by the river so that changed the whole typography of the bottom of the lake and it added a lot of things into that lake that weren't there before," he said.
This has left a completely different makeup of the rivers and lakes you once used to know.
"Even people that are experienced on the river that have been on it their entire lives, it's changed. And so there's dangers that are either under the water or there's certain areas that used to be safe that aren't safe anymore," Winkler said.
This is uncharted territory and it can be dangerous.
"The Platte and the Elkhorn have even kind of changed channels in some spots. So we're seeing a totally different river than it was pre-flood. We call it the new normal and no one knows what that looks like yet," Winkler said.
In the Elkhorn River specifically, there has been an increased amount of debris. So local businesses, like Tubing & Adventures, have had to step up their safety protocols.
"Quite a bit more debris than years past. That's something we hit on all of our customers before they go in the water they have to avoid the debris," owner Brock Beran said.
Tubing & Adventures is still dealing with the flooding, months after it happened.
"The impacts of the flood are going to be there for years. We're going to be cleaning up our campground for several years before we're back to where we were," Beran added.
Right now the biggest concern is safety.
"The biggest thing is life jackets, it's a state law and we require everybody to wear them," Winkler said.
The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District reminds everyone to also swim with a buddy, have a form of communication and always look ahead for danger or debris.