Midwest Faces Dangerous Flooding

Over a billion dollars in damage caused by flood waters

Tenley Wright, Staff Writer

Rapid snowmelt and heavy rainfall have caused catastrophic flooding across the Missouri River Basin, and three-fourths of Nebraska’s 93 counties have declared a state of emergency. According to state officials, the cost of the damage has surpassed $1.3 billion. That includes $440 million in crop losses, $449 million in damage to roads, levees and other infrastructure and $400 million in cattle losses.

According to the National Weather Service, more than seven million people were under flood warnings on Tuesday, March 19th, as the Midwest deals with the aftermath of snowmelt and a “bomb cyclone”.

Gov. Pete Ricketts estimated that more than 2,000 homes and 340 businesses were damaged or destroyed by the flood. The state is seeking a federal disaster declaration, which would quickly free up funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The flooding in Nebraska has been especially pervasive, with Ricketts calling it the “most widespread disaster we have had in our state’s history.”

Of the 606 community public water systems in the state, 14 were temporarily unable to provide water to customers. Nine boil-water advisories have been issued and five do-not-consume advisories have been issued, according to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

So far, 1,309 miles of highway have reopened, while 258 miles remain closed, the Department of Transportation said. There are 15 damaged bridges on state highways.

Nebraska Department of Agriculture logged 59 requests for help, for both short-term needs like cattle feed and longer-term items like fencing.

According to the state, the Nebraska National Guard has delivered 12 pallets of water, 300 cots, nine pallets of medical supplies and 320 slung sandbags. They have also placed 500 sandbags at the Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville, Neb., 230 at the Loup Canal and dropped 22 hay bales for cattle feeding in Columbus and Richland. 111 people and 13 pets have been rescued from flood waters as more than 400 Guard members are supporting relief efforts.

Ricketts declared Friday, March 22, to be Nebraska Strong Day, a day of giving to relief efforts. Donations at the end of the day totaled $436,719 and are still being accepted at nebraska.gov/nebraska-strong. Website visitors can list specific resource needs, and donors can connect with those in need.

There is a weather system moving in this weekend that may bring more snow and rain and potentially put more pressure on the Missouri River. The National Weather Service says that major to historic river flooding will continue across parts of the Mississippi and Missouri river basins. Flooding is also a threat across parts of the northwest and Northern Plains as well.

When it comes to flood risk, officials say to exercise caution. “Please don’t assume that if you’re outside the flood zone or you’re immune to flooding,” deputy administrator at FEMA, Daniel Kaniewski, said in a press conference. “Where it rains, it can flood.”

In addition to the Nebraska and Missouri River flooding, record flooding has also hit Iowa, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. These historic floods are perhaps just the start of a very wet and destructive spring.