Residents are starting to recovering from a massive meteorological catastrophe in the Midwest: the Great Flood of ’19. The lethal combination of heavy rain, frozen ground, ice jams, and rapid snow melt led to epic flooding; Nebraska was hit hardest. Flood Warnings remain in effect for a large area in the Midwest and these flood warnings will likely continue for days as flood waters are slow to recede. The flooding was so bad that even the local National Weather Service office in Nebraska had to evacuate due to rising flood waters. At least two have been confirmed killed by the floods and authorities are worried they’ll find more bodies as the water recedes and the devastation shows itself.
While Nebraska is at ground zero for the worst destruction, flood waters are impacting a large part of the region. There are several other rivers in parts of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin that have risen beyond flood stage, including rivers near Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Rockford, Illinois.
In Nebraska, Governor Pete Ricketts took to the skies to observe the catastrophe from above. His overflight showed washed-away communities, missing dams, highways and bridges gone, and destruction as far as the eye can see. Governor Ricketts was joined by U.S. Senator Ben Sasse and Nebraska State Senators in Nebraska National Guard aircraft. Beyond surveying conditions from the sky, they also visited the towns of Fremont, Niobrara, and Lynch, thanking volunteers along the way that have come to help the storm and flood victims there. According to Governor Ricketts’ office, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has been working with local, state, and federal officials to provide assistance to the counties in need while gauging the total damage and impact.
As of 3am local time on March 17, the Omaha/Valley office of the National Weather Service office says at least 16 records were broken from the floods. The Missouri River climbed to 40.62′, smashing the 36.73′ record set in 2011 in Plattsmouth. In Louisville, the 13.75′ flood exceeded the previous 12.45′ record set in 1960 by the Platte River. The Elkhorn River in Waterloo also rose to 24.63′, smashing the 1962 record flood of 19.12′.
The National Weather Service expects historic river flooding to continue for many days. The main rivers impacted include the Missouri, Platte, Elkhorn, Big Blue, Loup, Niobrara, Little Sioux, and Nishnabotna. The main creeks impacted include the Logan, Ponca, Willow, Lincoln, and Turkey. The National Weather Service also warns that some rivers may continue to rise, reaching or exceeding major or historic flood levels.
Nebraskans looking to support response efforts should contact their local emergency manager and the Nebraska Red Cross. A directory of local emergency managers can be found by clicking here. Information about the Red Cross can be found by clicking here.