Environment

Catastrophic flooding caused by rapid snowmelt and heavy rain, agriculture devastated, U.S.


Rapid snowmelt and heavy rain combined to produce massive flooding across Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin and South Dakota. 

Historic to catastrophic flooding inundated homes and businesses and devastated farmlands following a powerful late-season winter storm that swept through the country last week.

The massive flooding event was triggered by a rare combination of rapid snowmelt, ice-covered rivers, saturated frozen soil, and heavy rain from the so-called “Bomb Cyclone” or Winter Storm “Ulmer,” as it was named by The Weather Channel. 

Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes as floodwaters washed out bridges, submerged homes and highways.

In addition, agriculture across the region has been devastated, cattle stranded on newly formed islands and hay fields taken over by giant chunks of ice:

Three fatalities have been confirmed and at least two others remain missing as of early Monday morning, March 18.

In addition to the statewide emergency declaration issued by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, 53 counties, 54 and two tribes have issued emergency declarations. A state of emergency has also been declared in Kansas, Wisconsin and Iowa.

While river depths were starting to level off in parts of Nebraska on Sunday, March 17, the water is so high in many places that serious flooding is expected to remain for several days. And downstream communities in Kansas and Missouri were bracing for likely flooding, the AP reported March 18.

“Major to historic river flooding is expected to continue across parts of the Missouri and Mississippi River Basins due to rapid snowmelt the past few days,” NWS forecaster Santorelli said March 18.

Flood warnings and advisories remain in effect, mainly across eastern Nebraska and into parts of Iowa.

Flooding is also a concern across parts of the Northern Great Basin into the Northern/Central Rockies as warmer than average temperatures lead to accelerated snowmelt for the lower elevations.

Featured image credit: Jared Jaixen

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