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Saturday night's storm devastates downtown Omaha

Posted at 5:33 PM, Aug 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 08:20:01-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It didn’t take long for the storm to make its impact Saturday night. Heavy rains turned into devastating flash floods.

“Fifteen years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Rowhouses at Soma resident John Thomas said.

The streets in the Old Market area turned into rivers. The worst damage was between 14th and 11th streets on both Jones and Leavenworth streets.

“I had a birds-eye view from the ninth floor watching all of this,” Old Market Lofts resident Richard Berkland said. “I’ve never seen rain that fast coming down to an area that can’t absorb the water.”

“We were just hosting an event here and the light started to flicker,” Vintage Ballroom operator Rebekah Pasqualetto said. “We knew it was raining but we didn’t know how bad it was, so once the light started to flicker, we came outside and saw the river at the intersection.”

ALSO SEE: Western side of Omaha metro sees flash flooding, strong winds

Vehicles were flooded, totaled, and stranded.

“There were a lot of people out around the Old Market at restaurants who were trying to get to their cars. A lot of people here that couldn’t leave because their cars were flooded, so they were just waiting it out for the water to drain a bit,” Pasqualetto said. “A lot of my staff’s cars were flooded as well.”

Streets and landscapes were ripped up and ruined.

“It’s a long slope downhill, so it brought all the debris,” Berkland said. “There’s some construction projects up a couple blocks and all of that debris is sitting here in the intersection.”

“With all of the work that they just did on Jones Street, and all of the construction that they’re continuously doing,” Pasqualetto said. “It’s just a shame to see all of the landscaping and new sidewalks starting to deteriorate right away.”

The Old Market Lofts are still dealing with several feet of standing water in its basement parking garage.

“That basement must be at least five to six feet of water, so every car in that basement parking lot is submerged with water,” Berkland said. “It’s going to be a total loss.”

That's not all they're dealing with.

“The elevators aren’t working so everybody is going to get a workout today, at least today, maybe longer,” Berkland said.

Tony Luu was on one of those elevators with some friends Saturday night when the elevator gave out.

“We wanted to checkout downstairs, so we got on the elevator,” Luu said. “Once we got on there it started going down and then it just shook, it stopped, and water just started flowing in.”

After a quick FaceTime, Luu’s roommate and the roommate’s brother were first to the scene to help them escape.

“They were trying to break open the door while I was on the other side trying to break open the door also. Then a little gap opened up and we saw each other, made eye contact, and that made us push even harder to get out,” Luu said. “The other side was kind of deeper as well, so I had to swim out.”

It was a terrifying event unlike any you could imagine.

“It’s something you’d see in a movie; you wouldn’t see it in real life,” Luu said. “I hope no one does, but I got to live that moment. It was just wild, I never thought it could happen to me.”

The storm will not be soon forgotten.

We will continue to follow the cleanup efforts downtown and will have more on the impact Saturday night’s storm had on the area throughout the week on our newscasts and website.