On a cold morning last March, Kenny Angel got a frantic knock on his door. Two workers from a utility company in northern Nebraska had come with a stark warning: Get out of your house.
Just a little over a quarter-mile upstream, the 92-year-old Spencer Dam was straining to contain the swollen, ice-covered Niobrara River after an unusually intense snow and rainstorm. The workers had tried but failed to force open the dam’s frozen wooden spillway gates. So, fearing the worst, they fled in their truck, stopping to warn Angel before driving away without him.