Late-winter storm moves to Upper Midwest; flooding remains

OMAHA, Nebraska (AP) — A late-winter storm system continued its trek across the Midwest, expecting to send rain and snow into Minnesota and Illinois after leaving devastating flooding in parts of eastern Nebraska and Iowa.

The quickly rising floods evacuated people from their homes, washed out roads in communities, and left farmers worried all the water would drown livestock. The National Weather Service said the system would move into southern Minnesota and parts of Illinois, including Chicago, with rain later turning to snow. But the effects aren’t expected to be as bad as what was seen farther west and south on Thursday, said meteorologist Paul Fajman in Omaha.

“With the frozen ground and amount of rain our area had, it was just a perfect set of circumstances that led to the flooding we’re seeing in Nebraska and Iowa,” Fajman said.

On Wednesday, a blizzard crippled parts of Wyoming, Colorado and western Nebraska.

The heavy rain that fell on top of melting snow in Plains states this week flowed directly into swollen rivers because most of the ground is still frozen. Residents of communities that had to evacuate because of flooding will be cleaning up the damage for some time.

A semi-truck and trailer are swept off the road by floodwaters in Arlington, Nebraska. – AP

“It was ugly. It still is,” Jim Freeman said after using a chainsaw to cut up a chunk of ice that floodwaters left in his driveway. “There’s a lot of damage.”

Many of the homes in Freeman’s neighbourhood in Fremont, Nebraska, were inundated by the water that flowed in from the Platte River.

Evacuations also occurred in several other eastern Nebraska communities and in some areas of western Iowa. The weather service said flooding will likely continue on some rivers, including the Missouri River, into this weekend.

Fajman said parts of northeastern Iowa also can expect more flooding in the weekend. On Thursday, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed an emergency disaster proclamation and activated the state emergency operations centre, and all or part of nine state parks were closed due to rising floodwaters.

Emergency crews responded after a vehicle was swept off a road in Norfolk, Nebraska, and rising water along the Elkhorn River prompted evacuations in the city of 24,000 people. The missing motorist had not been found by late Thursday.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem closed all state offices on Thursday as the blizzard conditions moved in, and later in the day ordered the opening of the state’s Emergency Operations Center to handle the response to the blizzard and flooding. The state was preparing an emergency declaration, Noem said. The Red Cross opened shelters in Sioux Falls and Yankton.