Midwest scram­bling af­ter floods

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Margery A. Beck

Au­thor­i­ties res­cued and evac­u­ated res­i­dents af­ter rain­wa­ter and snowmelt over­whelmed rivers.

OMAHA, Neb. — Au­thor­i­ties were us­ing boats and large ve­hi­cles 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.

The scram­ble to move peo­ple out of harm’s way was ex­pected to sub­side go­ing into the new week, as rivers and creeks in flooded eastern Ne­braska and western Iowa were ex­pected to crest over the week­end. That left of­fi­cials down­stream look­ing to pre­pare for likely flood­ing.

Mis­souri Gov. Mike Par­son had al­ready met with emer­gency man­age­ment team mem­bers Fri­day to re­view and up­date flood­response plans, and the Mis­souri High­way Pa­trol was pre­par­ing ad­di­tional equip­ment and putting swift wa­ter res­cue per­son­nel on standby. The Mis­souri Na­tional Guard also tem­po­rar­ily re­lo­cated the 139th Air­lift Wing’s C-130s from Rose­crans Air Na­tional Guard Base in St. Joseph as a pre­cau­tion.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice said the Mis­souri River at St. Joseph reached nearly 26 feet Satur­day, about a foot be­low what’s con­sid­ered ma­jor flood­ing at the north­west Mis­souri city. But it’s ex­pected to crest Wed­nes­day or Thurs­day at 29.3 feet — more than two feet above ma­jor flood­ing level.

Evac­u­a­tion ef­forts in eastern Ne­braska and some spots in western Iowa on Satur­day 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.

In Fre­mont, west of Omaha, the Dodge County Sher­iff’s Of­fice is­sued a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion for some res­i­dents af­ter flood­wa­ters broke through a levee along the Platte River. And in Mills County, Iowa, au­thor­i­ties or­dered peo­ple in some ru­ral ar­eas to evac­u­ate af­ter the Mis­souri River over­topped lev­ees.

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, in­clud­ing the Mis­souri River, to record lev­els in Ne­braska, South Dakota, Iowa and Min­nesota.

The flood­ing was the worst in nearly a decade in places, au­thor­i­ties said.

The fam­ily of farmer James Wilke, 50, of Colum­bus, Neb., said he was killed Thurs­day when a bridge col­lapsed as he was us­ing his trac­tor to try to reach stranded mo­torists. 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 warned those who choose to ig­nore calls to evac­u­ate that res­cues would be at­tempted only dur­ing day­light hours. Some cities and towns, such as North Bend on the banks of the Platte River, were sub­merged. Oth­ers, such as Water­loo and Fre­mont, were sur­rounded by flood­wa­ters, strand­ing res­i­dents in vir­tual is­lands with no ac­cess in or out.

“There is no way out of here un­less you’ve got a he­li­copter — or a boat,” the Rev. Mike Bit­ter, pas­tor of Chris­tian Church of Water­loo, told the Omaha WorldHerald.

NATI HARNIK/AP

High wa­ter from the Mis­souri River al­most cov­ers a statue Satur­day in Omaha, Neb.

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