Nebraska underwater: 74 cities, 65 counties declare emergencies as flooding envelops state

The National Weather Service forecasts major to historic flooding along portions of the Missouri and Mississippi River basins for the rest of this week. The flooding started after a massive late-winter storm hit the Midwest last week. (March 19)
AP

Seventy-four cities, 65 counties and four tribal areas in Nebraska had declared states of emergency Tuesday as swaths of the Midwest battled rivers swollen by days of heavy rains and spring snowmelt.

Three deaths have been blamed on the flooding in Nebraska. Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to survey the damage in the region Tuesday with Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“Heading to Nebraska today to survey the devastating flood damage,” Pence said in a tweet. “To the people of Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas & all regions impacted: we are with you!”

About 200 miles of levees were compromised in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. Even in places where the water level peaked in those states, the current was fast and the water so high that damage continued to pile up. Thousands of people in the region been driven from their homes by the fast-rising waters. 

The levees are busted and we aren’t even into the wet season when the rivers run high,” said Tom Bullock, the emergency management director for Missouri’s Holt County.

Two Nebraska men have been missing for days. Some areas braced for more rain Tuesday, forecasters said.

In Hornuck, Iowa, Dale Ronfeldt, 66, stood in his backyard overlooking a drowned garage and a nearly flooded swimming pool. “We have a scare every year,” he said. “We have cried wolf so many times that you don’t know if it’s really going to happen this time or not. This time, it was real.” 

Overall, as of late Monday, about 8 million people in 14 states live where a flood warning is in effect, the National Weather Service said.

At a news conference Monday in Sioux City, Iowa, Reynolds said the flooding “is worse than even what we saw in 2011, and we’re just getting started.” 

In Nebraska, Ricketts said first responders, aided by the National Guard, completed more than 300 rescues across the state. The National Guard said its members joined with the and Nebraska State Patrol to escort a caravan of semis and fuel tankers packed with food and suppliers from Omaha to Fremont.

Department of Transportation cleared the way by plowing over 5 inches of mud outside of Fremont,” the Guard said on Twitter.

Offutt Air Force Base posted pictures on Facebook depicting large sections of the base swamped by flooding, and officials said the water wasn’t likely to recede until Thursday.

In Lincoln, city officials said power losses and a water pressure issue led to establishment of mandatory water use restrictions: no outdoor use and a postponement of laundry and even bathing.

“Let’s all do our part to conserve the current water supply,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

In Illinois, Freeport City Manager Lowell Crow said the town of 25,000 residents west of Rockford could see an all-time record flood along the Pecatonica River.

Rain will spread back across the central Plains on Tuesday and may be mixed with wet snow along its northern fringe, AccuWeather warned.

Contributing: The Associated Press; Anna Spoerre, Des Moines Register; Kristin Lam, USA TODAY

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