Friday, May 22, 2015

Pace quickens

From time to time I've blogged about the population estimates that are released annually by the United States Census Bureau. Last week, the estimate for Lincoln's population as of July 1, 2014 was released. The estimates are always for the preceding year. I was surprised to see Lincoln's estimate at 272,996. That's over 1,000 more people than I had expected.

The pace of growth seems to have quickened between 2013 and 2014, to 1.5%. We added 4,041 souls to the City between those two July 1 estimates. To put that in perspective, that's about the size of Cozad or Fairbury--pretty substantial 'burgs by Nebraska standards.

Since we now have an authoritative 2014 population estimate, and it's higher than expected, it will affect the crime rate statistics in a positive way. When I plug the new population figure into the spreadsheet, the violent Part 1 crime rate for 2014 will be 3.4 offenses per thousand population, rather than 3.6, and the property Part 1 crime rate will be 33, rather than 33.2.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Anatomy of the flood

Lincoln's flooding on Thursday of last week had a few positives, too, at least from my persepective. First, the Antelope Valley Project--which has been the target of plenty of slings and arrows over the past 20 years for the five mayors who helped propel it forward--decisively proved its worth. I have no doubt that we avoided a huge urban flooding nightmare, and tens of millions in damage.

Second, it was a good opportunity to thoroughly exercise the Emergency Operating Center--since it relocated a few years ago to 233 S. 10th Street. One of the remarkable changes from my last stint in the EOC was our ability to use the City's network of pan-zoom-tilt traffic cameras to monitor events, along with such resources as GIS mapping applications projected on the walls. It was a far cry then the windowless room in the basement of the County-City Building, where you're only connection to reality outside was the radio. We were able to get great streaming video of many trouble spots.

Third, it was an opportunity for me to get acquainted with Glenn Johnson, the general manager of the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District, aka the NRD. I learned a lot from listening to Glenn last week, a soft-spoken guy who clearly knows his stuff. His information about the Salt Creek levee system, the watershed, the stream gauges, sand boils, channel work, tributaries, and so forth was both useful and interesting. I became particularly interested in the systems for monitoring flood conditions, which include physical observation by NRD employees walking the levees, and remote monitoring of flow rates and water levels.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (say that three times fast) publishes data from stream gauges nationwide. This one, located in Salt Creek a bit north of Cornhusker Highway, will provide you with the anatomy of the flood for a couple more days, until the date window of May 6-8 scrolls off the page. You can hover your mouse over the blue points on the graph, and see the readings at each time interval.

Down at the lower left of the page, check out the section for "Historic Crests." Our 28.8 ft. crest at about 4:00 PM on May 7 is the highest since July 6, 1908--same summer the Cubs were on their way to the World Series pennant.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


One afternoon back in 1983 or so, I stumbled upon what looked like a minor fender-bender at N. 1st Street and Cornhusker Highway. I was a young sergeant, and prided myself on a willingness to handle such on-view events without burdening the officers on my squad.

Stepping out of my patrol car to start the paperwork, I suddenly realized that the station wagon involved in the collision way sitting on top of a human being--its driver--who had been ejected in the collision. A gaggle of four or five gawkers was looking on as the screaming victim was being seriously burned by the vehicle's exhaust system.

I barked a few commands. The onlookers grabbed fenders and bumpers, and literally lifted the weight of a two-ton vehicle. In a genuine emergency, a small group of people can muster super-human strength. My part was easy: I grasped the victim's ankles and pulled him from under the car.

For this act of other peoples' heroism,  I was subsequently awarded the Lincoln Police Department's Lifesaving Award. It's in a box in the basement, I think. Not that I wasn't appreciative, but there are a few other actions, never known by management, I hold more dear in my heart. This is true of virtually every other police officer, firefighter, and dispatcher I know.

Last night, a Lincoln firefighter who had read my recent blog post about the LUCAS device emailed me a story of a save, told with the same sense of wonder and amazement that I felt that evening, and on that handful of occasions no one else ever knew about.

We will save more lives with this device and this training. We will return victims, too young to die, to the bosom of their families; to grow old and bounce grand children and great grandchildren on their knee; and in a tiny, tiny, infinitesimally small way, I will take satisfaction in my minuscule role in facilitating this.

No man or woman could dream of such a fulfilling calling in life.