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




 

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.

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"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 Mills County, Iowa, water stood 10 feet high near Pacific Junction, where only the top halves of gas stations, homes and storage units were visible. County Emergency Management Director Larry Hurst says the flooding might be worse than some of the most extreme historical events - in 1952, 1993 and 2011.

"This is actually different even than the flood of '52," he said. "There's water on this entire basin."

Water continued to gush through a levee break near the Plattsmouth Toll Bridge, where the Platte and Missouri rivers converge. The mystery, he said, is the timeline for the water to recede.

"To tell you the truth, I don't know," he said. "I don't think anybody knows."

Glenwood Mayor Ron Kohn prepared said his city of 5,000 was in pretty good shape. But to the west, where the aging levee broke under rapidly rising waters last week, farms were swamped.

"That's all going to be gone until next year, I'm sure," Kohn said. "Rice is about all they could grow out there now."

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.

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.

"The Warhawks are Air Combat Command's most deployed Wing and even a 1,000 year flood won't change that," the post said.

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

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nebraska underwater: 74 cities, 65 counties declare emergencies as flooding envelops state

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