More evacuations in Midwest as floodwaters head downstream

ST LOUIS (AP) — Residents in parts of southwestern Iowa in the United States (US)were forced out of their homes on Sunday as a torrent of Missouri River water flowed over and through levees, putting them in a situation similar to hundreds of people in neighbouring Nebraska who have been displaced by the late-winter flood.

Heavy rainfall and snowmelt have led to dangerously high water in creeks and rivers across several Midwestern states, with the Missouri River hitting record-high levels in many areas. At least two deaths were blamed on flooding, and two other men have been missing for days.

While river depths were starting to level off in parts of Nebraska on Sunday, 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 flooding.

In Iowa, the Missouri River reached 9.2 metres on Sunday in Fremont County in the state’s far southwestern corner, 0.6 metre above the record set in 2011. People in the towns of Bartlett and Thurman were being evacuated as levees were breached and overtopped.

County Emergency Management Director Mike Crecelius said it wasn’t just the amount of the water, it was the swiftness of the current that created a danger.

The Rock River crested its banks and floods Shore Drive. – AP

“This wasn’t a gradual rise,” Crecelius said. “It’s flowing fast and it’s open country — there’s nothing there to slow it down.”

Thurman has about 200 residents. About 50 people live in Bartlett.

Lucinda Parker of Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management said nearly 2,000 people have been evacuated at eight Iowa locations since flooding began late last week. Most were staying with friends or family. Seven shelters set up for flood victims held just a couple dozen people Saturday night.

In Nebraska, the Missouri River flooded Offutt Air Force Base, with about one-third of it under water on Sunday. Spokeswoman Technical Sergeant Rachelle Blake told the Omaha World-Herald that 60 buildings, mostly on the south end of the base, have been damaged, including about 30 completely inundated with as much as 2.4 metres of water.

Hundreds of people remained out of their homes in Nebraska, where floodwaters reached record levels at 17 locations. The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency highlighted some remarkably high crests. The Missouri River was expected to reach 12.5 metres in Plattsmouth on Sunday —1.22 metres above the record set in 2011. The Elkhorn River got to 7.5 metres last Saturday in Waterloo, breaking the 1962 record by 1.68 metres.