Historic Nebraska flooding visible from outer space in photos released by NASA

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
March 19, 2019, 9:09:09 AM EDT


The flood disaster rages on in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa as rivers remain at historic levels. The return of rain on Tuesday threatens to aggravate the situation in some areas.

While flooding is ongoing in many areas of the north-central United States, communities around eastern Nebraska and western Iowa have been hit the hardest since the 'bomb cyclone' struck last week.

Hundreds of people have been forced to evacuate as rivers have overflowed their banks and multiple levees have failed. Sunday afternoon marked the latest evacuation order when concerns over unusable water and sewer systems prompted residents of North Bend, Nebraska, to leave their homes. North Bend is located along the Platte River, northwest of Omaha.

At least three fatalities have been reported due to the flooding, according to KMTV in Omaha. The third death was reported on Monday by the Platte County Sheriff's Office. An 80-year-old woman was found dead in her home near Columbus after several unsuccessful attempts to rescue her.

James Wilke of Columbus, Nebraska, was killed on Thursday when a bridge collapsed as he was attempting to reach stranded motorists.

Vice President Mike Pence thanking emergency personnel in Omaha, Nebraska. (Twitter/VP)

Vice President Mike Pence surveying flood damage in Omaha, Nebraska. (Twitter/VP)

Vice President Mike Pence surveying flood damage in Omaha, Nebraska. (Twitter/VP)

Vice President Mike Pence surveying flood damage in Omaha, Nebraska. (Twitter/VP)

Vice President Mike Pence touched down in Omaha, Nebraska to survey flood damage, and thank volunteers and emergency personnel. (Twitter/VP)

Vice President Mike Pence touched down in Omaha, Nebraska to survey flood damage, and thank volunteers and emergency personnel. (Twitter/VP)

Vice President Mike Pence getting briefed while en route to Nebraska. (Twitter/VP)

(Facebook/Illinois Department of Transportation)

Flooding in Miller City, Illinois, on Tuesday, March 19.

AP

This Monday, March 18, 2019 photo taken by the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol and provided by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, shows flooding along the Missouri River in rural Iowa north of Omaha, Neb. (Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management via AP)

(Photo/NASA)

NASA photos taken a year apart show the dramatic extent of the historic flooding devastating parts of Nebraska.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Gabe Schmidt, owner of Liquid Trucking, back right, travels by air boat with Glenn Wyles, Mitch Snyder and Juan Jacobo, as they survey damage from the flood waters of the Platte River in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Gabe Schmidt, owner of Liquid Trucking, back right, travels by air boat with Glenn Wyles, Mitch Snyder and Juan Jacobo, as they survey damage from the flood waters of the Platte River in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Trino Nuno and his dog Tyson navigate flooded streets in Fremont, Neb., Monday, March 18, 2019. Authorities say flooding from the Platte River and other waterways is so bad that just one highway lane into Fremont remains uncovered, and access to that road is severely restricted.

(Mike Bossman / Omaha Police Department)

Historic flooding in Nebraska left some roads completely washed out and scenes of widespread devastation, dramatic aerial photo showed.

(Mike Bossman / Omaha Police Department)

Historic flooding in Nebraska left some roads completely washed out and scenes of widespread devastation, dramatic aerial photo showed.

(Photo/Bellevue Police Department)

Floodwaters inundated an intersection in Bellevue, Nebraska.

(Photo/U.S. Senator Ben Sasse)

Residents in Nebraska worked together to set up sandbags amid the historic flooding.

(Mike Bossman / Omaha Police Department)

Historic flooding in Nebraska left some roads completely washed out and scenes of widespread devastation, dramatic aerial photo showed.

(Photo/U.S. Senator Ben Sasse)

One home looked like an island as it was completely surrounded amid the historic flooding in Nebraska.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Gabe Schmidt, owner of Liquid Trucking, right, talks to Glenn Wyles, second right, as they survey by air boat flood damage from the flood waters of the Platte River, in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17, 2019.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

A BNSF train sits in flood waters from the Platte River, in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17, 2019.

(Twitter / Offutt AFB)

Much of Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, where the US Strategic Command and the 557th Weather Wing and 55th Wing are located, was underwater amid the rising floodwaters.

(Photo/Christopher Heady)

Highways submerged by flood waters in Nebraska.

(Photo/@OmahaHeating)

Flooding in Ashland, Nebraska.

(Image/Gov. Pete Ricketts)

What remains after the failure of the Spencer Dam in Nebraska.

(Photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

A bridge that fell apart due to the strong current of a swollen river in Genoa, Nebraska.

(Photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

A road destroyed by flooding in Nebraska.

(Photo/U.S. Senator Ben Sasse)

Massive chunks of ice and rising floodwaters wreaked havoc in Nebraska over the weekend.

(Twitter / Offutt AFB)

Much of Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, where the US Strategic Command and the 557th Weather Wing and 55th Wing are located, was underwater amid the rising floodwaters.

(Mike Bossman/Omaha Police Department)

Historic flooding in Nebraska left some roads completely washed out, dramatic aerial photo showed.

(Photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

A vehicle submerged in flood waters in Columbus, Nebraska.

(Photo/Mitch Schneringer)

Flooding in Arlington, Nebraska, as seen from a C150 airplane.

(Photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

A closer view of the bridge that fell apart in Genoa, Nebraska.

(Photo/Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts)

Aerial view of Nebraska flooding.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

A Welcome to Wahoo sign stands in flood waters outside Wahoo, Neb., Wednesday, March 13, 2019.

(Photo/Nebraska State Patrol)

The Nebraska National Guard performing air rescues near Arlington, Nebraska.

(Photo/Kade Nelson)

River flooding has overtaken a highway in Columbus, Nebraska.

(Photo/@everythinglo18)

Flood waters in Cascade, Iowa, on Thursday.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Jim Freeman tries to saw through thick ice slabs on his property in Fremont, Neb., Thursday, March 14, 2019, after the Ice-covered Platte River flooded its banks.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Thick slabs of ice slabs surround a structure in Fremont, Neb., Thursday, March 14, 2019, after the ice-covered Platte River flooded its banks.

(Photo/Sarpy County Sheriff)

View of flooding in Sarpy County, Neb.

(Photo/Avery Andersen)

A baseball field flooded in Atlantic, Iowa.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Drivers go through flooded highway 92, as the Cottonwood and Wahoo creeks overflow their banks, in Wahoo, Neb., Wednesday, March 13, 2019.

(Photo/Michael Martz)

Streets flooded in Boone, Iowa, on Thursday.

(Photo/@everythinglo18)

Flood waters in Cascade, Iowa, on Thursday.

(Photo/@everythinglo18)

Flood waters in Cascade, Iowa, on Thursday.

(Photo/OPDOfcBossman)

A large part of Nebraska has been hit with catastrophic flooding.

(Photo/OPDOfcBossman)

A large part of Nebraska has been hit with catastrophic flooding.


At least two other people are missing in Nebraska.

Vice President Mike Pence will visit the region on Tuesday, he announced on Twitter.

Seventy-four cities, 65 counties and four tribal areas have issued emergency declarations in Nebraska, the state's emergency management agency said.

Nebraska State Patrol officials reported that the bridge of State Route 92 that crosses the Elkhorn River, west of Omaha, was washed away by floodwaters on Saturday morning.

RELATED:
Multiple caged animals rescued from home threatened by floodwaters
Floodwaters completely surround Nebraska home
Helicopter captures shocking footage of record-breaking floods
State leaders see the unbelievable flooding devastation

Incidents of damage to other roads and bridges have left communities such as Waterloo and Fremont, Nebraska, surrounded by floodwaters with residents stranded.

The Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, is also battling floodwaters, which started to creep onto the installation on Friday, March 15, according to a press release from the base.

Nearly one-third of the 55th Wing is underwater, Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake, a 55th Wing spokeswoman, told the Omaha World-Herald.

Sixty buildings, mostly on the south end of the base, have been damaged. Thirty of the buildings have been completely inundated with as much as 8 feet of water, including the 55th Wing’s headquarters and a hangar.

Base officials evacuated the Base Lake early Friday. Personnel worked around the clock to fortify facilities with more than 235,000 sandbags and 460 flood barriers to minimize damages, according to the press release.

The Elkhorn River at Waterloo peaked at a record stage of 24.63 feet on Saturday. That shattered the previous record crest from late March 1962 by more than 5 feet.

The river has since started to recede, but the Missouri River between Omaha, Nebraska, and Kansas City, Missouri, is expected to remain at major to record stage through most of this week as runoff from flooded streams and rivers flows downstream.

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

"While this storm will pale in comparison to last week's storm, there is the potential for 0.50 of an inch to 1 inch of rainfall in a narrow swath in the central Plains," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews. "That could trigger new or aggravate problems if that rain targets the areas hit hardest by the flooding."

Larger rivers may rise slightly more than latest projections or their expected crests can be delayed.

"Already swollen smaller streams and rivers can also significantly rise," Andrews added.

Tues storm 3/18


Recovery and storm cleanup efforts can be hindered by the rain regardless if any additional flooding occurs.

Residents are being warned that many roads can remain impassible even after flood waters recede. Officials are advising anyone who has been forced to evacuate to not return home until instructed.


Officials evacuated the area around Valley, Nebraska, on Friday after portions of the Union Dike on the Platte River failed. Valley is located in Douglas County, about 30 miles west of Omaha.

The National Weather Service Omaha office, located in Valley, was also forced to evacuate. Operations have been moved to the office in Hastings, Nebraska, until it is deemed safe for employees to return.

Nearly 2,000 people sought refuge at 22 American Red Cross shelters at the height of the evacuations, according to a report from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Officials had to rescue close to 300 people including many pets from the flood waters.

53 counties, 54 cities and two tribes in Nebraska issued emergency declarations.

That is in addition to the statewide emergency declaration issued on Tuesday by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts to allow NEMA and other state agencies to address the impacts from the adverse weather that has struck the state.


Many roads remained closed on Sunday across eastern Nebraska, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Interstate 29 has also been shut down from Omaha, Nebraska, to Rockport, Missouri.


"All evacuation notices, suggested and mandatory, are STRONGLY encouraged," NEMA said. "By ignoring evacuation recommendations, extraction requests made later may be delayed. Please don’t put your neighbor's life in unnecessary danger by ignoring these requests."

Emergency management officials also disputed a rumor about the status of a nuclear power plant located along the Missouri River.


On Friday morning, the Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper Nuclear Station declared a “Notification of Unusual Event” due to rising river levels.

"The declaration was anticipated for several days by the power plant’s operators, who closely tracked the river’s steady increase in elevation due to the combination of snow melt, frozen ground, heavy rain conditions in Nebraska, and releases of water from upstream reservoirs in South Dakota," officials said in a statement.

The notification declaration is part of the safety and emergency preparedness plan the station follows when flooding conditions are in effect. Plant officials have been closely monitoring river levels and began preparing the station for flood conditions by filling sandbags that were placed along the river levee.


"There is no threat to plant employees or to the public; the plant continues to operate safely. Appropriate local, county, state and federal agencies were also notified."

A state of emergency has also been declared in Kansas and Wisconsin. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has also issued a disaster proclamation in response to the flooding.

Major river flooding is expected to be a problem for the north-central United States not just this week but through at least April.

river flooding 31819


"With inevitable melting snow coming for the northern tier and large rivers already engorged from recent storms, a long-lasting flooding event is likely for many communities along the Mississippi River and others this spring," AccuWeather Senior Meterologist Alex Sosnowski stated.

Report a Typo

Comments

Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.

More Weather News