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Record Flooding in Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota Follows Snowmelt, Bomb Cyclone

Mar 16, 2019 09:33AM ● By Editor

Record river flooding has plagued five states in the Plains and Midwest, and river flooding will continue for several more days after rapid snowmelt and heavy rain from the bomb cyclone swamped the nation's heartland.

As of Saturday, 38 locations have topped new record river levels, mainly in the Missouri Valley from southeastern South Dakota into Nebraska and western Iowa, but also in parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Locations that have set new record river levels, as of Saturday, March 16. Additional locations may set record crests. (Data: USGS, NWS )

Among these included locations along the Missouri River south of Omaha, Plattsmouth, Nebraska City and Brownville, each topping their previous record crests from the June 2011 Missouri Valley flood.

River levels at Atchison, Kansas, could approach the record from the infamous summer 1993 flood at that particular location.

Elsewhere in Nebraska, record flooding was observed along the Platte River at Ashland, Leshara and Louisville, west and southwest of Omaha. Early Saturday, the Platte levee was overtopped near Thomas Lakes, just north of Ashland. The Elkhorn River at Waterloo was about 5 feet above its previous record crest from March 1962. 

A dike failure along the Platte River prompted the evacuation of the National Weather Service office in Valley, between the Platte and Elkhorn Rivers. Drone footage Friday showed the office surrounded by flood water.

Flooding of the Loup River near the town of Genoa crushed the record from 1966 by over 3 feet.

A flash flood emergency was issued for Genoa on Thursday morning, prompting evacuations on the south side of the eastern Nebraska town. Evacuations were also reported Thursday morning near Yutan and Duncan, Nebraska.

After the failure of Spencer Dam on northern Nebraska's Niobrara River, a downstream gauge near the town of Verdel exceeded its previous flood of record from March 1966 by over 6 feet as the flood wave surged downstream.

The surreal sight of huge ice slabs deposited on roads from the flood surge was common in several parts of the flood zone. In some areas, the ice piles resembled ice shoves commonly seen on some larger lakes, including the Great Lakes

In western Iowa, record flooding was seen along stretches of the Boyer, Floyd, Little Sioux, Ocheyedan and West Nishnabotna rivers.

Skunk Creek in the city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, topped its previous record from June 1957, contributing to a mess of flooding seen around the city, which resulted from melting 8 inches of snow in four days, then picking up about 2.5 inches of rain on top of that.

A number of locations in Wisconsin also set record flood crests in Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Kewaunee, Martintown and near Cedarburg, just north of Milwaukee. 

Near-record flooding is forecast in the coming days along the Rock River in the Rockford, Illinois, metro area, and downstream in Moline, Illinois.

While smaller creeks, streams and rivers have crested or soon will, larger mainstem rivers should continue to rise and remain in flood for days from the central Plains to the Mississippi Valley, Ohio Valley and Great Lakes as this volume of water slowly moves downstream.

There were over 300 river gauges above flood stage in the Mississippi River and Missouri River watersheds.

Latest River Locations Above Flood Stage  (Data: USGS, NWS)

The good news is mainly dry weather is expected in the nation's heartland for the next several days.

However, markedly warmer weather is also expected, which will accelerate melting of lingering snow cover from the northern Plains into the northern Great Lakes.

As a result, water from melting snow will continue to pour into smaller tributaries, then larger mainstem rivers, likely keeping those mainstem rivers relatively high over the next few weeks.

For more flood related reporting, follow this link to the website.

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