At least three dead after devastating floods across US Midwest

  • 19 Mar 2019

Several Midwestern states grapple with swollen rivers and breached or overtopped levees following heavy rain and snowmelt. Three people have died and at least one person is missing as a result of the flooding.

Flooded RV's, washed away by the flood waters of the Platte River, are seen in Merritt's RV Park in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, Sunday, March 17, 2019. ( AP )

The US Midwest struggled on Monday with historic flooding that claimed at least three lives, displaced residents and damaged hundreds of homes and businesses.

Some small towns and communities have been cut off by floods while others were short of fresh drinking water.

Streets in Lincoln, Nebraska's capital, were barely visible as high water surrounded homes, cars and trees, according to photos released to Reuters by state authorities. 

The flooding started after a massive late-winter storm hit the Midwest last week. 

The high water was blamed in the deaths of three people from Nebraska.

Swollen waters hit much of Nebraska, as well as parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, and South Dakota, after a major storm last week dumped snow and rain, even as melting snow was already raising the levels of area waterways.

Neighbouring states could also be affected as floodwaters drain, officials said.

President Donald Trump on Monday described the floods as "devastating" and said the White House would remain in close contact with state officials.

"Our prayers are with the great people of South Dakota," he said in one tweet.

In another aimed at Iowa residents, he said: "We support you and thank all of the first responders working long hours to help the great people of Iowa!"

'Historic' flooding 

The National Weather Service (NWS) described the flooding as "major" and "historic," forecasting that it would continue across large sections of the middle of the country.

"Flood Warnings and Advisories are scattered throughout the Plains, Mississippi Valley, and western parts of the Ohio Valley region, with a focus in Nebraska and western Iowa," the NWS said in an advisory.
"Farther west and north, areal flooding is also possible in the Northwest and Northern Plains as snowmelt continues over frozen ground."

The early damage assessment total for the state of Nebraska was more than $260 million, according to emergency management officials.

Damage to the state's livestock sector was estimated at about $400 million, while the full impact on the spring planting season was not yet clear, said Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

A pickup truck sits in a ditch after being swept by flood waters in Norfolk, Nebraska, Friday, March 15, 2019.(AP)

The state's highway system suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, said Kyle Schneweis, director of the state Department of Transportation, with more than 200 miles of roadways needing repair or replacement. Some 540 miles of highways remained closed, he said, down from 1,500 at the peak of flooding.

Record flooding was reported in 17 locations in the state and 10 American Red Cross shelters were operating for displaced residents.

At its highest point, the Missouri River was expected to crest at 14.5 metres, beating its 2011 record by more than one foot.

The Missouri River is the longest in North America.

"Comparisons to 2011 were inevitable," the NWS office in Iowa tweeted, "but these floods have resulted in many more rescues and widespread damage in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa."

Failing levees were blamed for flooding in numerous communities, damaging homes and businesses.

Ducks swim nearby as the high waters of the Missouri River almost submerge figures in the Monument to Labor statue by Matthew J. Placzek, in Omaha, Nebraska, Saturday, March 16, 2019.(AP)

Military base under water 

Hundreds of people were rescued in Nebraska, where 54 cities issued emergency declarations, as did four Native American tribal areas.

Fremont, a city of more than 25,000, was surrounded by floodwaters over the weekend and cut off from aid.

It finally received food and other emergency supplies Sunday after crews managed to clear debris and mud from a road, officials said.

Three dozen Iowa counties were under states of emergency.

Roads were closed throughout Wisconsin and more than 200 people were evacuated, according to officials.
A third of Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska was overcome with floodwater, and was not expected to be dry again until Thursday.

Akashi Haynes, left, and her daughter Tabitha Viers carry their belongings rescued from their flooded home in Fremont, Nebraska, Monday, March 18, 2019.(AP)