USA – 3 Dead as Rivers Reach Record Highs in Iowa and Nebraska

The flood situation in upper mid-western states has worsened over the last few days. Wide areas of Nebraska and Iowa are under water, with many rivers reaching record levels. About 200 miles of levees along the Missouri River have been either breached or overtopped, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Areas of Wisconsin and Missouri have also been affected by the flooding.

At least 3 people have now died in flood-related incidents, with one person reported as still missing. Governors of Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin have declared a state of emergency.

Flooding began on 14 March last week after a combination of rain, melting snow and ice jams caused rivers to overflow, prompting evacuations.

Before the floods – image of the affected area before the floods, taken March 2018. Image; NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.
After the floods – image of the affected area after the floods, taken 16 March 2019. Image; NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Nebraska

More than 300 people have been rescued across the state by the Nebraska State Patrol, National Guard troops, and urban search and rescue teams. Thousands are thought to have evacuated their homes.

Flooding has caused widespread damage to livestock and the state’s highway system. Nebraska Department of Transportation said more than 200 miles of roadways needed repair or replacement. Over 500 miles of highways remain closed. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts called it a disaster of historic proportions.

Flooding has also inundated areas around the Cooper nuclear plant near Brownville and the Offutt Air Force Base near Bellevue. The Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River near Spencer has been completely destroyed.

Two flood-related fatalities were reported in the Columbus area and a third in Norfolk. One person was still missing following the collapse of the a dam near Norfolk.

Flooding of the Platte River, Nebraska, March 2019. Photo: Office of the Governor, Nebraska
Floods have destroyed the Spencer Dam near Spencer, Nebraska, March 2019. Photo: Office of the Governor, Nebraska
Flooding near Norfolk, Nebraska, March 2019. Photo: Office of the Governor, Nebraska

Iowa

At a news conference Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said the flooding is worse than in 2011, and that this is still the early stages. More than 2,000 people in Iowa have fled their homes since the flooding began last week.

Wisconsin and Missouri

Hundreds of homes have been flooded in Holt County, Missouri after the Missouri river breached several levees. Over 100 roads have been closed in the area. Several high water rescues have been carried out, including one by helicopter.

In Wisconsin, dozens of residents evacuated their homes in Green Bay. Dozens of roads are closed throughout Wisconsin due to flooding.

Rivers

NWS Omaha said that the main rivers affected are the Missouri, Platte, Elkhorn, North Fork of the Elkhorn, Big Blue and the lower part of the Nishnabotna.

As of 19 March there were 77 river gauges above flood stage in the Missouri River Basin region, with 12 of them above major flood stage.

NWS Omaha said that major flooding on the Missouri River from Plattsmouth downstream to Rulo was expected in the coming days.

Among the record breaking levels are the Elkhorn River at Waterloo, which reached 24.63 feet on 16 March, beating the previous high of 19.12 feet of March 1962.

The Missouri River at Plattsmouth reached 40.62 feet 16 March, above the previous record of 36.7 feet set in June 2011. The Missouri River at Brownville meanwhile reached 45.73 feet on 16 March, beating the June 2011 record high of 44.79 feet.

Rivers in flood in the Missouri River basin, as of 19 March 2019. Image: NWS / NOAA. Key: Purple: Major Flood Stage; Red: Moderate Flood stage; Amber: Minor Flood Stage
Elkhorn River at Waterloo. Image: NWS / NOAA
Missouri River at Plattsmouth. Image: NWS / NOAA
Missouri River at Brownville. Image: NWS / NOAA

Flood Summary

Last updated: August 14, 2019
Event
Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Missouri and South Dakota, USA, March 2019
Date
March 12, 2019
Type
Flash flood, River flood
Cause
Ice jam, Long-term rainfall, Snow melt
Flooding affected parts of Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota from around 12-14 March, 2019 after a combination of rain, melting snow and ice jams caused rivers to overflow. Flooding worsened over the following days and by 16 March several rivers had reached record levels. Parts of Wisconsin, Illinois Missouri were also affected. Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin declared a state of emergency.

Further snowmelt and heavy rain increased river levels again in late April and early May. National Weather Service said: "Major flooding was observed at all sites along the Mississippi and ALL sites saw one of their top 5 crests on record. The Quad Cities river gauge at Rock Island Lock and Dam, broke its all-time record flood crest in 1993, with a preliminary crest of 22.70 ft."

Reinsurance broker Aon said that total economic losses were estimated at more than $4 billion, with up to $1 billion in claims.

Locations

A - Wahoo
B - Pierce
C - Missouri Valley
D - Niobrara
E - Schuyler
F - Rogers
G - Brownville
H - Bellevue
I - Spencer Dam
J - Columbus
K - Norfolk
L - Holt County, Missouri
M - Green Bay
N - St Joseph, Missouri
O - Rock Island, IL
P - Sioux City - Rainfall level 39.37 mm in 24 hours
Q - Primghar, Iowa - Rainfall level 50.8 mm in 24 hours
R - Albion Airport - Rainfall level 55.37 mm in 24 hours
S - Pebble Creek at Scribner, Nebraska - River level 9.39 metres
T - Elkhorn River at Waterloo - River level 7.507 metres
U - Missouri River at Plattsmouth - River level 12.38 metres
V - Missouri River at Brownville - River level 13.94 metres
W - Missouri River at St Joseph, Missouri - River level 9.79 metres
X - Mississippi river at Rock Island - River level 6.90 metres

Magnitude

Rainfall level
39.37 mm in 24 hours
Sioux City - March 12 to March 13, 2019
NWS Omaha / Valley NE figures
Rainfall level
50.8 mm in 24 hours
Primghar, Iowa - March 12 to March 13, 2019
NWS Omaha / Valley NE figures
Rainfall level
55.37 mm in 24 hours
Albion Airport - March 12 to March 13, 2019
NWS Omaha / Valley NE figures
River level
9.39 metres
Pebble Creek at Scribner, Nebraska - March 14 to March 14, 2019
Levels of Pebble Creek at Scribner, Nebraska, have reached record heights, standing at 30.82 feet / 9.39m on 14 March, well above the previous high of 24.48 feet / 7.46m set in 1996.
River level
7.507 metres
Elkhorn River at Waterloo - March 16 to March 16, 2019
Elkhorn River at Waterloo reached 24.63 feet / 7.5m on 16 March, beating the previous high of 19.12 feet / 5.83 of March 1962.
River level
12.38 metres
Missouri River at Plattsmouth - March 16 to March 16, 2019
Missouri River at Plattsmouth reached 40.62 feet / 12.38m 16 March, above the previous record of 36.7 feet / 11.18 set in June 2011
River level
13.94 metres
Missouri River at Brownville - March 16 to March 16, 2019
Missouri River at Brownville meanwhile reached 45.73 feet / 13.94m on 16 March, beating the June 2011 record high of 44.79 feet / 13.652m
River level
9.79 metres
Missouri River at St Joseph, Missouri - March 22 to March 22, 2019
River reached 32.11 feet at 20:00 on 22 March, 2019, beating previous high of 32.07 ft on 26 July 1993.
River level
6.90 metres
Mississippi river at Rock Island - May 2 to May 2, 2019
Mississippi river at Rock Island 22.7 feet on 02 May, beating record of 22.6 feet

Damages

Evacuated
2500 people
Nebraska and Iowa - March 12 to March 18, 2019
Estimated figure: local media / NWS reported evacutaions in Pierce and evacuation notices for Missouri Valley (Iowa) and Schulyer and Rogers in Nebraska. Official figures from Iowa government said that 2,000 had evacuated by 18 March.
Rescued
300 people
Nebraska - March 12 to March 18, 2019
Nebraska government said that more than 300 people have been rescued across the state by the Nebraska State Patrol, National Guard troops, and urban search and rescue teams.
Fatalities
3 people
Nebraska - March 12 to March 19, 2019
Two flood-related fatalities were reported in the Columbus area and a third in Norfolk. One person was still missing following the collapse of the a dam near Norfolk.
Roads
300 km
Nebraska - March 12 to March 18, 2019
Nebraska Department of Transportation said more than 200 miles of roadways needed repair or replacement.
Evacuated
2,000
St Joseph, Missouri - March 21 to March 25, 2019
Estimated figure
Total damage assessment
$4,000,000,000
Nebraska, Iowa and other states - March 1 to May 1, 2019
According to Aon Reinsurance
Insured losses
$1,000,000,000
Nebraska, Iowa and other states - March 1 to May 1, 2019
According to Aon Reinsurance