Giant slabs of ice ripped through their house Thursday, leaving a trail of destruction from the mighty Niobrara River.
A five-generation farmstead, Willard and Denise Ruzicka of Verdigre, along with their son Anthony, are struggling to know where to turn and what to do now that their livelihood — not just their home and their sister's home — is gone after catastrophic flooding. Elvira Ruzicka's home was also destroyed.
“To see grown men crying like this,” friend Lori Knigge said. “This whole thing just breaks my heart. It’s devastating. The are a five-generation farm with no insurance. The whole places is destroyed. They need help.”
Friends of Ruzicka family, like Lori Knigge and Steve Kreycik, are trying to help the Ruzickas. Neighbors helping neighbors is happening all across Nebraska, but for farmers and ranchers, this tragedy runs deeper than structural loss as they try to find feed for their livestock.
With bridges out across the Niobrara River, Knigge said residents can’t get medical treatment, including chemotherapy medication for cancer. She said three-quarters of a mile of ice bergs remained Friday leading to the Pischiville bridge, one of just a handful of bridges left.
“We need heavy equipment. Back hoes or an excavator with a thumb,” she said. “We have a neighbor with a CAT moving on tracks, trying to open the road, but there’s flood water behind him. He’s trying to keep the flooding back and trying to get the water to go around. It’s nothing but ice to the whole approach of the bridge.”
Kreycik said the Ruzicka family made it out of the farm before the surge hit after the Spencer Dam broke, but it was close.
“Willard didn’t want to leave. This was his home, his livelihood,” Kreycik said. “This is a good family, and they need help from people.”
With the water from Spencer came more icebergs, Knigge said they ripped holes through the house, pushing mounds of dirt inside. Ice was left on countertops. Outbuildings were moved and destroyed. To see the devastation, she said, is simply unimaginable.
If that damage wasn’t terrible enough, word came after the surge that another was on its way. That’s when Ruzicka asked Knigge to photograph the damage — in case there was more and no even their destroyed home would be remain.
“When we thought another surge was coming, I’ve never been so scared in my life,” Knigge said through tears. “They wanted me to take pictures to have them, but we didn’t know if the second wall was coming. I was so scared. They are absolutely devastated and broken. This is all they’ve known their whole lives.
The Ruzicka family is trying to feed their livestock and keep that livelihood intact with little time and resources to worry about the home and belongings they no longer have. It’s unclear if they will receive federal support since President Trump has yet to name this a federal disaster.
But Knigge and Kreycik — and countless others from the area — are adamant that the Ruzicka family need help and are asking the public to donate time and manpower to help this family.
“We need manpower,” she said. “Man power and heavy equipment. And feed. The silage is down to an eighth of what it was before the flood, so we need feed for the livestock. Any help we can get will be appreciated.”
To donate to the family, click here.