“The review came back ‘good to go,’ ” Offutt spokesman Drew Nystrom said. “We’re bouncing back.”
But it still remains unclear when nine aircraft that were evacuated from Offutt as the flooding worsened might return. Nystrom said base officials want to get the eight RC-135 Rivet Joints and the E-4B National Airborne Operations Center back home as soon as possible, but they don’t want to create risk by rushing things.
“We want to make sure we’re not getting ahead of ourselves and bringing the jets back too early,” Nystrom said.
Water continues to recede at Offutt, Nystrom said. However, it’s not completely gone yet, especially on the most southeastern portion of the base.
Nystrom also said 50 of 55 buildings that were flooded or received other water damage have been cleared to start recovery operations, and assessments are under way. In all, 1.2 million square feet of facilities were damaged.
Floodwaters from the Missouri River and Papio Creek began to overwhelm Offutt on March 15. Base personnel scrambled to try to keep them out, filling 235,000 sandbags and using 460 flood barriers, but were unable to stop the waters from swamping one-third of the base by the end of that weekend. About 3,000 feet of the base’s two-mile-long flightline was under water at one point.
As Offutt’s recovery continues, other areas along the Missouri are preparing for possibly more flooding. The Associated Press reported Thursday that predicted rainfall near Kansas City, Missouri — about 200 miles south of Offutt — could cause a second crest in that area.
Nystrom said the base continues to monitor the weather, but there is no imminent threat of additional flooding at Offutt.
“Mother Nature is fickle, and we’re being wary and keeping a sharp eye on weather reports, but at this time, we’re not taking any extra precautions or doing anything we haven’t already been doing,” he said.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright visited Offutt Wednesday, where they saw the flood damage and talked to hundreds of base personnel who helped with flood preparations and recovery. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson visited the base on March 22.
“A lot of people put in a lot of time and effort,” Wright said. “Thank you. I know it’s been tough. Try to keep your spirits up. As airmen, we keep going and going and going. Don’t be afraid to take a knee.”
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.