Rising rivers to put more communities at risk of flood disaster in central US

By Renee Duff, AccuWeather meteorologist
March 25, 2019, 3:41:14 AM EDT


The flooding disaster that continues to unfold over the central United States is likely to continue well into April, putting more communities and farmland at risk.

The disaster was set in motion during the second week of March, when a 'bomb cyclone' struck the region, dropping heavy rain and triggering massive snowmelt, which led to an excess of runoff into rivers and waterways.

The flooding has led to several deaths, the evacuation of an entire town in Missouri and over $1 billion in damage thus far.

The majority of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota has been under water for days, threatening the livelihood of many as access to food, clean water and health care becomes increasingly difficult to obtain.

Several deaths have occurred in the past couple of weeks, but officials have yet to determine if impacts from the river flooding are to blame.

With few resources in terms of transportation, rescue resources and manpower, recovery is expected to be prolonged.

(DroneBase via AP)

This Wednesday, March 20, 2019 aerial photo shows flooding near the Platte River in Plattsmouth, Neb., south of Omaha.

(DroneBase via AP)

This Wednesday, March 20, 2019 aerial photo shows flooding near the Platte River in Plattsmouth, Neb., south of Omaha.

(Twitter/Missouri State Highway Patrol)

Water Patrol Troopers assisting a utility company shutting off natural gas lines in flood waters at Craig, Missouri, on Wednesday, March 20.

(Twitter/Missouri State Highway Patrol)

Missouri 111 on the south side of Craig, Missouri, in Holt County. Water being held back by a man-made berm on Wednesday, March 20.

(Twitter/Missouri State Highway Patrol)

Water Patrol Troopers assisting residents of Watson, Missouri, as water comes over levees in the area on Monday, March 18.

(Facebook/Illinois Department of Transportation)

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

(Facebook/Illinois Department of Transportation)

The Mississippi River is seen overtopping a levee in Miller City, Illinois, on Tuesday, March 19.

(Facebook/Illinois Department of Transportation)

Flooding in Gulfport, Illinois.

(Facebook/Illinois Department of Transportation)

Flooding in Barstow, Illinois.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Freedom Park, the naval museum featuring aircraft, the USS Marlin SST-2 Submarine and the USS Hazard AM-240 Minesweeper, is flooded by the waters of the Missouri River, in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, March 19, 2019.

(Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management via 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.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

A neighborhood in Bellevue, Neb., is flooded by waters from the Missouri River, Tuesday, March 19, 2019, with the flooded runway of Offutt AFB seen top left.

(Twitter/ VP Mike Pence)

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

(Twitter/ VP Mike Pence)

Vice President Mike Pence surveying flood damage in Omaha, Nebraska.

(Twitter/ VP Mike Pence)

Vice President Mike Pence surveying flood damage in Omaha, Nebraska.

(Twitter/ VP Mike Pence)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits the relief shelter at Elkhorn Middle School in Elkhorn, Nebraska, on March 20, 2019.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Gabe Schmidt, owner of Liquid Trucking, top right, travels by airboat 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.

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

A barge is moored along the Missouri River as floodwaters begin to creep into a dredge operation in St Joseph, Mo., Monday, March 18, 2019.

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Volunteers move and cover sandbags in preparation of flooding along the Missouri River in St Joseph, Mo., Monday, March 18, 2019.

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Volunteers fill sandbags in preparation for flooding along the Missouri River in St Joseph, Mo., Monday, March 18, 2019.

(U.S. Senator Ben Sasse)

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

(AP Photo/Holbrook Mohr)

Backwater flooding covers stretches of farm lands near Yazoo City, Miss., Sunday, March 17, 2019, as seen in this aerial photograph.

(Bellevue Police Department)

Floodwaters inundated an intersection in Bellevue, Nebraska.

(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.

(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 and scenes of widespread devastation, dramatic aerial photo showed.

(U.S. Senator Ben Sasse)

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

(NASA)

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

NASA satellite imagery here showing extent of Mississippi River flooding between Mississippi and Lousiana. (NASA.gov)


More lives and property will be threatened by rising water levels in the days and weeks to come.

"River and stream flooding will continue over a large portion of the middle to upper Mississippi Valley, Corn Belt and parts of the central Plains right into April," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jack Boston.


While rivers are receding across the hardest-hit areas of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, water draining downstream is causing the Missouri River to rise across northeastern Kansas and Missouri.

The Missouri River at Rulo, Nebraska, hit a record crest of 28.14 feet late Wednesday, which exceeded the previous high mark of 27.26 feet set on June 27, 2011.

Farther downstream at Atchison, Kansas, the river's water levels crested just shy of the record (31.63 feet) on Friday.

river flooding 3.24 AM


The surge of water will cause modest rises across the balance of the river in Missouri, with minor to moderate flooding forecast to continue this week.

Portions of the Missouri River reached major flood stage by Monday, near the towns of Waverly and Miami, Missouri.

Meanwhile, the span of the Mississippi River remains at various flood stages.

Water levels are on the decline south of the Mississippi River's confluence with the Ohio River. However, water rises are forecast farther north as runoff from an impressive snowpack enters the basin.

There are 2-10 inches of water locked up within the snow cover across the northern tier of the Central states, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

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The Mississippi River at St. Paul, Minnesota, reached major flood stage early on Monday. It is forecast to continue to rise another 4 to 5 feet by the end of March, with no receding in sight.

"It is possible that many parts of the Mississippi River will remain above flood stage through the spring and into the first part of the summer in the slow-moving natural disaster," Sosnowski said.

noaa flood

This map depicts the locations where there is a greater than 50-percent chance of major, moderate or minor flooding during March through May, 2019. (NOAA)


The flooding is likely to ensue even if the snowmelt is not accompanied by one or more soaking rain events.

"As AccuWeather has been warning about for weeks in terms of flooding in the Central states, expect significant flooding along the Red River of the North as well this spring," Sosnowski said.

Motorists are reminded never to drive through floodwaters or around barricades marking off a flooded, closed road. Instead, turn around and find a safer, alternate route.

In the short term, no major storms are forecast to roll through the nation's midsection.

There may be another larger storm that will roll through the central U.S. with rain during the latter half of this week.

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