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While many events this weekend throughout Columbus were canceled or postponed due to flooding, NEMSA was not one.

The Nebraska Emergency Medical Services Association has held its annual convention at the Ramada Hotel and River's Edge Convention Center in Columbus for the past three years. First Vice President of NEMSA Dave Huey said it’s an opportunity to provide education and training for the state's EMTs, paramedics and various other first responders.

Although normally the event would have been attended by hundreds, Huey said many were unable to come due to major roads being closed due to the floodwaters. Another large number of would-be attendees were called into action to respond to the area’s natural disaster. Still, several from Omaha, Lincoln and other parts of the state were able to make their way for the convention.

“We normally have between 300 and 400 people who come to our event, and we’re at about 100," Huey said. "That’s a huge impact.”

Ryan Simpson is NEMSA's event coordinator and has been a volunteer EMT with the Ord Volunteer Fire Department since 1995. He said the Ord area flooded, but had started to subside when he left for the convention around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday evening. While few were present when the convention started on Thursday, Simpson said things did improve Friday.

“Today has actually been better than yesterday because yesterday we were wondering if anybody was going to show up. Whereas today, we’ve got people here and people calling wanting to know which roads actually get here still," Simpson said. "So that’s a lot better.”

Mickey Sauser was amongthe half-dozen vendors at the event which would normally have around 30. The Mercy Air Care program manager drove to Columbus from Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday evening. Sauser said what normally would have taken him two hours to drive instead to took five due to all the detours he took.

“Yesterday I left the base, brought my stuff. I came down I-29 to Highway 30. And I got on Highway 31, 64, 275, 30, 77, 109, 79 and 30 and I made it here just fine,” Sauser said. “It just took a while."

Simpson said he and many others at the convention felt they should be out in the field helping with relief efforts, but recognized there was only so much that could be done until floodwaters subside. The group was, however, able to work with the hotel to fill vacant rooms left open by canceled event attendees with those affected by the flood and in need of a place to stay.

Once the convention wraps up, the first responders in attendance will take home the skills and knowledge that will be utilized in relief efforts across the current flood-affected areas of Nebraska.

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at ericv.schucht@lee.net.

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Eric Schucht earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 2018. He has written for The Cottage Grove Sentinel, The Creswell Chronicle, The Pacific Northwest Inlander and The Roseburg News-Review.

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