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Bill and Christi Payne brought their RV out Sunday to Branched Oak Lake in Nebraska so they could get a good spot for the Labor Day weekend.

“You have to, otherwise you won’t get one,” Bill Payne told the Lincoln Journal Star.

The couple left their fifth-wheel camper at the lake and drove back to York. To keep their spot, they paid for the next three days — even though they weren’t there — and returned Wednesday night.

The Paynes got a nice spot in the Homestead Campground, but they also got more than 2 inches of rain early Thursday morning.

It didn’t faze the couple, because earlier in the week, York got more than 6 inches of rain. The Paynes’ home was dry but other areas were flooded by a swollen Beaver Creek, which cuts through York.

Charles Henry of Lincoln and four friends got a taste of bad weather early Thursday at Branched Oak. High winds snapped a pole in his tent and flattened other tents like they were marshmallows.

“The lightning was like it was right beside the tent,” said Henry, who fled his tent at 5:30 a.m. and slept in a vehicle until daybreak.

Dean and Jan Meyer of Sidney, who are in the Lincoln area for the next two Husker football games, rode out the storm in their RV.

“It got a little carried away last night. Big rain. A lot of thunder. It came down pretty hard,” said Dean Meyer, adding that they’re used to camping in severe weather.

“Out in western Nebraska the storms get pretty violent.”

Jim Swenson, east region parks manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said he anticipates good crowds this weekend despite the threat of storms.

“We are optimistic, and if there are any impacts, I think those will be minimal because park visitors want to celebrate the final weekend of the summer and are determined to do so,” Swenson said in an email. “Park visitors are resilient and will adapt to enjoy their weekends in their campers, tent or cabins.”

A drive through several Branched Oak campgrounds on Thursday found few open spots. Most had been reserved through Labor Day.

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