Many places are un­der­wa­ter in the cen­tral U.S.

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Ian Liv­ingston WASH­ING­TON POST

While a his­tor­i­cally snowy win­ter be­gins to wind down across parts of the Plains and Mid­west, what threat­ens to be an equally his­toric spring flood sea­son is now un­der­way. From Ne­braska to Wis­con­sin, and up and down rivers in the Plains and Mid­west, more than 10 mil­lion peo­ple are un­der flood warn­ings into the week­end in the wake of this week’s “bomb cy­clone.”

Some of the most sig­nif­i­cant flood­ing thus far has hit east­ern Ne­braska. “Wide­spread and ex­tremely dan­ger­ous flood­ing will con­tinue to­day and tonight,” the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice of­fice in Omaha wrote in an up­date Fri­day morn­ing.

Since is­su­ing that state­ment, the Weather Ser­vice it­self had to evac­u­ate due to a dike fail­ure on the Platte River.

In north­east Ne­braska, the city of Nor­folk re­mains un­der a large-scale evac­u­a­tion on its east side. Flood­ing there is due to rivers like the Elkhorn ris­ing to near-record lev­els and breach­ing lev­ees in some spots. Weather.com re­ported that one-third of the city of 24,000 was evac­u­ated. Wa­ter in that lo­ca­tion is now sub­sid­ing, but only after a por­tion of the city was sub­merged.

Colum­bus, at the meet­ing point of the Platte and Loup rivers in south­east­ern Ne­braska, has also been par­tic­u­larly hard hit. A farmer there was swept away and killed while at­tempt­ing to help res­cue oth­ers from flood­wa­ters on his trac­tor. Sev­eral oth­ers are miss­ing in the re­gion.

Ma­jor ice jams on both rivers near Colum­bus led to a flash flood emer­gency Thurs­day in the area. Of­fi­cials were plan­ning to place coal ash on the ice to help it melt and al­low the rivers to re­cede once the nat­u­ral and tem­po­rary dams were re­moved, but the jams broke up on their own be­fore that plan was set into mo­tion.

In re­cent days, as the “bomb cy­clone” dis­pensed heavy rain­fall, flood­ing fo­cused on creeks and streams and small to in­ter­me­di­ate-size rivers. Through the week­end, the most sig­nif­i­cant flood­ing is fore­cast to shift to the larger rivers in the re­gion.

In the sec­tion of the Mis­souri River me­an­der­ing through south­east­ern Ne­braska to the Iowa bor­der, the Cooper Nu­clear Sta­tion de­clared a “no­ti­fi­ca­tion of un­usual event” early Fri­day morn­ing, sig­nal­ing that the river had sur­passed a height which causes con­cern.

Ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease, the Mis­souri River’s level at the lo­ca­tion of the nu­clear power plant had climbed to 42.5 feet, or 899.05 feet above sea level. The plant it­self sits 903 feet above sea level. The alert trig­gered ini­tial pre­cau­tions, and if the river reaches 45 feet the plant will be taken off­line.

Fore­casts from the Weather Ser­vice in­di­cate that the wa­ter level at the plant may rise to about 45.5 feet this week­end, which would re­quire a shut­down. Elec­tric­ity then would be de­liv­ered from other sources. The plant op­er­ated through­out the last ma­jor threat, dur­ing his­toric flood­ing in sum­mer 2011.

Flood­ing along this por­tion of the Mis­souri River has al­ready neared or sur­passed record lev­els.

While ad­di­tional rises are not ex­pected to be mas­sive, the river may not crest un­til to­day or Sun­day in this area.

Wa­ter lev­els on many of the ma­jor rivers are ex­pected to stay near record highs into early next week be­fore slowly sub­sid­ing.

Flood­ing is also com­mon across Iowa, with nu­mer­ous roads statewide closed. In cen­tral por­tions of the state, some homes have been evac­u­ated near Otho, where some ice jams have also been re­ported.

Flood­ing is also com­mon if some­what less wide­spread in parts of Wis­con­sin, Min­ne­sota, Michi­gan, and South Dakota in par­tic­u­lar.

The Wis­con­sin towns of Lodi and Dar­ling­ton have seen par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive flood­ing. In Lodi, the mayor has said it’s the worst he’s ever seen in his 71 years.

Dar­ling­ton is in the midst of its third flood in a year, which is ex­pected to be the worst since 1993 in that lo­ca­tion.

The flood­ing has been caused by a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors.

Heavy rain as­so­ci­ated with the “bomb cy­clone” that moved through in re­cent days was a big cat­a­lyst.

It was ex­ac­er­bated by a now-melt­ing hefty win­ter snow pack left by record win­ter pre­cip­i­ta­tion.

Ice jam block­ades on rivers and still-frozen ground, which max­i­mizes runoff, are only mak­ing mat­ters worse.

Given the abun­dant pre­cip­i­ta­tion through win­ter, and an ac­tive spring storm track through the na­tion’s mid­sec­tion, the events of this week likely mark just the be­gin­ning of a long flood sea­son.

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