A perfect storm of weather disasters—a “bomb cyclone” of rain falling as quickly melting snow was overtopping rivers and breaking levees—has meant disruption and in some cases devastation for Midwestern farmers, ranchers and even some motorcoach operators.
United Motorcoach Association CEO Stacy Tetschner reached out to members, offering the organization’s support in seeking needed aid, supplies or connections to partner companies that might help in fulfilling contracts.
“On behalf of the members, staff and Board of Directors of the United Motorcoach Association, I want to share our prayers and concern regarding the flooding in your area,” wrote CEO Stacy Tetschner. “At the very least, we know this type of tragedy creates disruption to business and can only escalate in worse scenarios.
“We all take pride in the bus and motorcoach community being widely known as first responders in helping move people out of harm’s way. We also want to be the first to offer help to our own in their time of need.”
Among the hardest affected was Don Oberle, CEO of Navigator Bus, and his company. The company that runs charters and trolleys has its base in Norfolk, Nebraska. There, the Elkhorn River flooded, one man went missing in floodwaters, airboats were used in rescue efforts and some 1,000 people were forced to take shelter in town.
“As of today we are moving to a new office and working with the bus manufacturers to replace five motorcoaches lost to the flooding,” he wrote to Bus and Motorcoach News. “Our entire office and shop were in chest high water, so not much to save. Very difficult time for us.”
Others like Tammy Goodbrake, managing member of Adventure Bus and Charter of Kearney, Nebraska, faced disruption but were spared major damage. While everything surrounding their offices flooded, no water made it inside. While the bus terminal and maintenance areas did flood, the fleet was undamaged.
“We were only closed one day and then back in full operation,” she said. “We are definitely challenged with all of logistics of re-routing several of our trips. However, with God’s help, we have completed all of them safely and on time! So many other Nebraskans are not as fortunate as we are. Our hearts go out to all of them.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that 200 miles of levees were topped or breached across Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas as of mid-March. Some 99 counties in Nebraska declared states of emergency. Amtrak cancelled its Missouri River Runner Trains and brought in charter buses to cover its routes. Meanwhile, an estimated $1 billion of damage is estimated for farmers and ranchers as fields and farms were inundated, destroying crops and livestock at the peak of calving season. The most frightening part for many was the forecast of continuing strong storms well into May.
To make it easier for carriers to provide assistance to emergency relief efforts, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an emergency declaration allowing fleets providing relief to circumvent Parts 390-399 of the Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations. The suspended regulations include those concerned with hours of service, inspection, repair and maintenance, hazardous materials transportation, driving, parking and other health and safety standards.
What remained as floodwaters started to recede is also an issue critical for those in the motorcoach industry to address with legislators—both as they were to do at UMA’s annual Fly-In and beyond, says Bob Greene, a UMA board member and Nebraska-based sales representative for Amaya-Astron Seating. While he was spared flooding, unlike surrounding neighborhoods, he nonetheless witnessed the toll not just on people’s livelihoods, but on public infrastructure.
“It gives more credence to the need to talk more seriously about an infrastructure bill,” he said. “Our infrastructure in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Kansas has been completely compromised. Roads and bridges were washed away and broken down.”