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Grand Island, Nebraska

Grand Island, Nebraska
Hall County Courthouse in Grand Island
Hall County Courthouse in Grand Island
Location of Grand Island in County and State
Location of Grand Island in County and State
Country United States
State Nebraska
County Hall
 • Mayor Jeremy Jensen
 • Total 28.55 sq mi (73.94 km2)
 • Land 28.41 sq mi (73.58 km2)
 • Water 0.14 sq mi (0.36 km2)
Elevation 1,860 ft (567 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 48,520
 • Estimate (2013[3]) 50,550
 • Density 1,700/sq mi (660/km2)
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 68801-68803
Area code 308
FIPS code 31-19595
GNIS feature ID 0829622 [4]

Grand Island is a city in and the county seat of Hall County, Nebraska, United States.[5] The population was 48,520 at the 2010 census.[6]

Grand Island is the principal city of the Grand Island metropolitan area, which consists of Hall, Merrick, Howard and Hamilton counties. The Grand Island metropolitan area has an official population of 83,472 residents.[7]

Grand Island has been given the All-America City Award three times (1955, 1967, and 1981–82) by the National Civic League.

Grand Island is home to the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center (NLETC) which is the sole agency responsible for training law enforcement officers throughout the state, as well as the home of the Southern Power District serving southern Nebraska.


  • History 1
    • 1980 tornadoes 1.1
  • Geography and climate 2
  • Demographics 3
    • 2010 census 3.1
    • 2000 census 3.2
  • Environmental issues 4
  • State Fair 5
  • Transportation 6
  • Radio stations 7
  • Hospitals 8
  • Shopping 9
  • Grand Island in the news 10
  • Education 11
    • School districts 11.1
    • High schools 11.2
    • Colleges 11.3
  • Notable people 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14


In 1857, 35 German settlers left Davenport, Iowa, and headed west to Nebraska to start a new settlement on an island known by French traders as La Grande Isle, which was formed by the Wood River and the Platte River. The settlers reached their destination on July 4, 1857, and by September had built housing using local timber. Over the next nine years, the settlers had to overcome many hardships, including blizzards and conflicts with Native Americans.[8]

In fall 1865, a surveyor for the Union Pacific Railroad discovered a vast prairie dog village near present-day Grand Island. He said, "for a distance of ten miles the prairie is one vast prairie-dog village. For miles and miles the ground is completely covered with their holes." [9]

Black-and-white photo: ca. 20 one-story buildings on treeless prairie
Grand Island, 1867

Surveyors from the Union Pacific Railroad laid out a town called Grand Island Station and many settlers living on Grand Island moved to the new town, located slightly inland from the island.[10] In 1868 the railroad reached the area, bringing increased trade and business. By 1870, 1,057 people lived in the town and in 1872 the town was incorporated as Grand Island.[8]

In about 1890, sugar beets were introduced as a crop in Nebraska. The first sugar beet processing factory in the United States was built in the southwest part of Grand Island.[8]

1980 tornadoes

On June 3, 1980, Grand Island was hit by a massive supercell storm. Through the course of the evening, the city was ravaged by seven tornadoes, the worst of which was rated F4 on the Fujita Scale. The hardest hit area of town was the South Locust business district. There were five deaths as a result of the tornadoes.

Tornado Hill is a local landmark created as a direct result of the tornadoes. Debris that could not be recycled was burnt near Fonner Park and buried within Ryder Park, on the west end of town. The base of the hill was a hole 6–8 feet deep and nearly 200 feet across, and the hill is 40 feet high. It is used for sledding in this naturally flat area.[11]

A book, Night of the Twisters, by Ivy Ruckman, and movie were based on this event.[12]

Geography and climate

Grand Island is located in Nebraska. .[13] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 28.55 square miles (73.94 km2), of which, 28.41 square miles (73.58 km2) is land and 0.14 square miles (0.36 km2) is water.[1]

Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rec High °F 76 80 90 96 101 107 109 110 104 97 82 76
Norm High °F 32.6 38.6 49.5 61.9 71.9 83 87.1 84.8 76.9 64.6 46.8 35.3
Norm Low °F 12.2 17.7 27 37.8 49.3 59.1 64.4 62.3 51.8 39.3 25.9 15.9
Rec Low °F -28 -19 -21 7 23 38 42 40 23 9 -11 -26
Precip (in) 0.54 0.68 2.04 2.61 4.07 3.72 3.14 3.08 2.43 1.51 1.41 0.66
Source: [1]


2010 census

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 48,520 people, 18,326 households, and 11,846 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,707.8 inhabitants per square mile (659.4/km2). There were 19,426 housing units at an average density of 683.8 per square mile (264.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 80.0% White, 2.1% African American, 1.0% Native American, 1.2% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 13.1% from other races, and 2.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 26.7% of the population.

There were 18,326 households of which 35.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.5% were married couples living together, 12.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.2% had a male householder with no wife present, and 35.4% were non-families. 29.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.20.

The median age in the city was 34.7 years. 27.6% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.7% were from 25 to 44; 23.9% were from 45 to 64; and 13% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.8% male and 50.2% female.

2000 census

As of the census of 2000, there were 42,940 people, 16,426 households, and 11,038 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,000.2 people per square mile (772.2/km2). There were 17,421 housing units at an average density of 811.5 per square mile (313.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 86.72% White, 0.42% African American, 0.33% Native American, 1.31% Asian, 0.17% Pacific Islander, 9.64% from other races, and 1.42% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 15.94% of the population.

There were 16,426 households out of which 34.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.0% were married couples living together, 10.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.8% were non-families. 27.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.09.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.0% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 20.8% from 45 to 64, and 14.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 98.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $36,044, and the median income for a family was $43,197. Males had a median income of $28,925 versus $20,521 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,071. About 9.9% of families and 12.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.7% of those under age 18 and 8.1% of those age 65 or over.

Environmental issues

Construction of a primary water detention cell for flood control by the Central Platte River Natural Resources District, the city of Grand Island, Hall County and Merrick County has been delayed by slow clean up of burning grounds with buried and unexploded gravel mines on the former Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant.[16]

In 1981, a plume of contaminated groundwater was discovered beneath the former Ammunition Plant, which occupies 20 square miles west of Grand Island. The plume extended to northeast of the plant for about five miles and migrated towards Grand Island. RDX was discovered at 371 parts per billion (ppb) and TNT at 445 ppb on the plant site and just over 100 ppb off-site. The safe drinking water standard for RDX and TNT is 2 ppb. [16]

Cornhusker had produced bombs during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War and had been put on standby status in October 1973. During munition production, wastewater contaminated with explosives, and explosives-contaminated mops, buckets and other equipment were buried in 56 earthen surface impoundments. Dried solids were periodically scrapped from those impoundments and taken to the burning grounds for incineration and burial. After the discovery of contaminated groundwater in 1981, the Army extended Grand Island city water lines to rural subdivisions (that as of 2014 are part of the Capital Heights and Le Heights areas) in 1985, because well water may have exposed residents to contaminated water. In 1987, the Army burnt about 40,000 tons of explosives-contaminated soil. In 1993, city water lines in northwest and north central Grand Island were extended. In 1998, a pump-and-treat facility that continues to operate was built to cycle contaminated water through an explosives-removal system and discharge it as clean water into Silver Creek. The Army injected “hot spots” of contamination with a molasses-based substance to help degrade RDX and TNT with bacteria present under T&E cattle company feedlot more quickly, which allegedly helped lower contamination levels. In the late 1990s and early 2000s the bomb production line sites (the so-called load line structures), were cleared and burnt. As of 2014, TNT is still present at 30 ppb for and 7 ppb for RDX in the hot spot under load line 1.[16]

As of 2014, the most heavily contaminated areas at Cornhusker are the burning grounds with buried and unexploded gravel mines. Their excavation proceeds very slowly, sifting one cubic yard at a time, because of the explosives' shock sensitivity. Excavation is expected to finish by January 2015, followed by environmental testing, estimated to take 24 to 36 months.[16]

State Fair

In 2010 Grand Island became the home of the Nebraska State Fair.[17]


Interstate 80 is located four miles south of the city. US Highway 281 is the main north-south route in the city, running through the city's west edge south to Hastings, Nebraska, and north to O'Neill, Nebraska.

Central Nebraska Regional Airport is located in Grand Island. On September 4, 2008, Allegiant Air began nonstop service from Grand Island to Las Vegas, Nevada. In June 2011, American Eagle Airlines began providing service to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas twice daily.

Grand Island used to have a trolley that ran just east of the Grand Island College (now the location of Grand Island Senior High School). The trolley ran from the intersection of Capital Avenue and Lafayette Avenue, south to Waugh Street. It turned east on Waugh Street, and ran to Grand Island Avenue. It then turned south on Grand Island Avenue and ran where a median is now located. The trolley line terminated at the Grand Island Avenue and 13th Street intersection. The trolley line was used as a "school bus" for college students to get to the former college.

Radio stations


Grand Island has two hospitals; Saint Francis Medical Center and the Veterans Affairs Hospital.


Grand Island is a major hub for shopping in Central Nebraska. The Conestoga Mall is a shopping mall in the city and the historic downtown area features many shops, furniture stores, antique stores and unique restaurants.

Grand Island in the news

A June 10, 2011 issue of Time Magazine featured Grand Island and the surrounding area. Referred to as "economic bizarro land," the article profiles the strong local economy.[18]

On December 12, 2006 the Immigration and Customs Enforcement staged a coordinated predawn raid at the Swift and Co. meat packing plant in Grand Island and at five other Swift plants in western states. They interviewed workers and took away suspected illegal immigrants.[19][20]

A February 16, 1952 issue of Look Magazine listed Grand Island as one of 26 cities that tolerated sinful behavior.[21] After this issue, Grand Island took measures to clean up its image.

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island, Nebraska. Building designed by Edward Durell Stone.
Hotel Yancey


School districts

High schools


Notable people


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c
  9. ^ Ambrose, Stephen; "Nothing Like it in the World", p. 141
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b c d
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "U.S. Raids 6 Meat Plants in ID Case", article New York Times by Julia Preston, December 13, 2006
  20. ^ FindLaw for Legal Professionals - Case Law, Federal and State Resources, Forms, and Code
  21. ^ Article. Nebraska Law Association. Retrieved 9/23/06.
  22. ^
  23. ^

External links

  • City of Grand Island
  • The Grand Island Independent Newspaper
  • Grand Island Public Library
  • Masonic Temple Building
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