Flood­ing hits Mid­west in wake of ‘bomb cy­clone’

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Mitch Smith NEW YORK TIMES

CHICAGO – Se­vere floods closed high­ways, caused evac­u­a­tions and forced a se­ries of tense wa­ter res­cues across the Mid­west on Thurs­day as melt­ing snow and heavy rain cre­ated dan­ger­ous con­di­tions.

“If you choose to stay where you’re at, you’re on your own,” said Shane Wei­d­ner, pub­lic safety di­rec­tor in Nor­folk, Ne­braska, where a levee sys­tem was near­ing ca­pac­ity and po­lice of­fi­cers had told about one-third of the city’s 24,000 res­i­dents to evac­u­ate.

Wei­d­ner said one per­son was re­ported miss­ing in Nor­folk and a fam­ily of 10 was stranded in a home sur­rounded by ris­ing wa­ters. City of­fi­cials were ask­ing res­i­dents with air­boats for their help in res­cu­ing the fam­ily.

Across parts of Ne­braska, South Dakota and Iowa, ris­ing wa­ter was threat­en­ing homes and cov­er­ing farm fields, and au­thor­i­ties warned peo­ple to stay off swamped road­ways. In Min­nehaha County, S.D., which in­cludes Sioux Falls, the sher­iff’s of­fice posted a photo of a car washed off the road. In Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, near Sioux City, res­i­dents were asked to con­serve their wa­ter use be­cause “all the drain­ing wa­ter is in­un­dat­ing our sewer sys­tem.” And in Ne­braska, the State Pa­trol said at least one ru­ral bridge ap­peared to have been de­stroyed and that large ice blocks had washed down from rivers and cov­ered high­ways.

Flood­ing was also re­ported in parts of Min­nesota, Mis­souri, Wis­con­sin and Illi­nois.

Spring­time flood­ing is com­mon along rivers in the Mid­west, but the speed and fe­roc­ity of the floods this week were un­usual. The ris­ing wa­ters, which filled some rivers to near-record lev­els, were caused by a mix of heavy rain, melt­ing snow­pack and frozen ground.

“That’s a recipe for what we have right now, which is ma­jor flood­ing,” said David Pear­son, a hy­drol­o­gist at the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice of­fice near Omaha, Ne­braska. “All that wa­ter doesn’t soak into the ground and goes straight into the rivers.”

In Sioux Falls, where wa­ter crept onto side­walks and cov­ered some streets, Mayor Paul TenHaken pleaded with res­i­dents to stay in­doors. “A lot of stalled cars, a lot of peo­ple mak­ing bad de­ci­sions right now,” TenHaken said in a news con­fer­ence.

In Ash­land, Neb., west of Omaha, fire­fight­ers warned that they might not be able to res­cue peo­ple who re­fused to evac­u­ate and be­came stranded.

The floods came as part of a mas­sive storm sys­tem, re­ferred to by some as a “bomb cy­clone,” that pounded the Rocky Moun­tains, north­ern Plains and Up­per Mid­west this week. Crews evac­u­ated res­i­dents from flood­wa­ters in Fond du Lac, Wis­con­sin, and closed swamped roads in western Illi­nois. To the north and west, heavy snow was a greater con­cern, with high­ways and schools closed in parts of South Dakota, North Dakota and western Ne­braska. Con­di­tions were so poor in parts of South Dakota that snow plows were or­dered off the roads around mid­day Thurs­day.

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