Residents rescued amid historic flooding across Midwest
Authorities were using boats and large vehicles on Saturday to rescue and evacuate residents in parts of the Midwest where a recent deluge of rainwater and snowmelt was sent pouring over frozen ground, overwhelming creeks and rivers, and killing at least one person.
Rescue efforts in eastern Nebraska were hampered by reports of levee breaches and washouts of bridges and roads, including part of Nebraska Highway 92, leading in and out of southwest Omaha. Authorities confirmed that a bridge on that highway that crosses the Elkhorn River had been washed out Saturday.
And in Fremont, west of Omaha, the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office issued a mandatory evacuation for some residents after flood waters broke through a levee along the Platte River.
The flooding followed days of snow and rain — record-setting, in some places — that swept through the West and Midwest. The deluge pushed some waterways to record levels in Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. The flooding was the worst in nearly a decade in places.
The National Weather Service said it will continue.
“Moderate to major and historic river flooding is expected to continue across parts of the Mississippi and Missouri River Basins through the weekend as a result of heavy rainfall earlier this week falling on frozen ground and a deep snowpack leading to intense and quick melting,” the National Weather Service said Saturday.
“Flood warnings and advisories remain in effect, mainly across parts of the eastern Nebraska, Iowa, and southern Wisconsin,” it added.
The family of farmer James Wilke, 50, of Columbus, Nebraska, said he was killed Thursday when a bridge collapsed as he was using his tractor to try to reach stranded motorists on Thursday. His body was found downstream, his cousin Paul Wilke told the Columbus Telegram. Gass Haney Funeral Home confirmed James Wilke’s death.
At least two other people were missing in floodwaters in Nebraska. Officials said a Norfolk man was seen on top of his flooded car late Thursday before being swept away in the water and another man was swept away by waters when a dam collapsed on the Niobrara River.
Farther east, the Mississippi River saw moderate flooding in Illinois from Rock Island south to Gladstone. Meteorologist Brian Pierce with the National Weather Service’s Quad Cities office in Davenport, Iowa, said flooding on the Mississippi could get worse a few weeks as more snow melts in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“What we’re having now is the dress rehearsal for the main event that’s going to happen in early April,” he said of the flooding on the Mississippi.
Rising waters along the Pecatonica and Rock rivers flooded some homes in the northern Illinois cities of Freeport, Rockford and Machesney Park. The National Weather Service said record crests were possible along the rivers, with water levels forecast to continue to rise over the next several days and remain above flood stage through most of the weekend.