Anthony Thomson, left, and Melody Walton make their way out of a flooded neighborhood Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Fremont, Neb. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in Nebraska and Iowa as levees succumbed to the rush of water. (Kent Sievers/Omaha World-Herald via AP)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Hundreds of homes flooded in several Midwestern states after rivers breached at least a dozen levees following heavy rain and snowmelt in the region, authorities said Monday while warning that the flooding was expected to linger.
About 200 miles of levees were compromised — either breached or overtopped — in four states, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.
Even in places where the water level peaked in those states — Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas — the current was fast and the water so high that damage continued to pile up.
The flooding was blamed for at least three deaths.
“The levees are busted and we aren’t even into the wet season when the rivers run high,” said Tom Bullock, the emergency management director for Missouri’s Holt County.
He said many homes in a mostly rural area of Holt County were inundated with 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 meters) of water from the swollen Missouri River.
He noted that local farmers are only a month away from planting corn and soybeans.
“The water isn’t going to be gone, and the levees aren’t going to be fixed this year,” said Bullock, whose own home was now on an island surrounded by floodwater.
One couple was rescued by helicopter after water from three breached levees swept across 40,000 acres (16,188 hectares), he said.
Another nine breaches were confirmed in Nebraska and Iowa counties south of the Platte River, the Corps said.
In Atchison County, Missouri, about 130 people were urged to leave their homes as water levels rose and strained levees, three of which had already been overtopped by water.
Missouri State Highway Patrol crews were on standby to rescue anyone who insisted on staying despite the danger.
“The next four to five days are going to be pretty rough,” said Rhonda Wiley, Atchison County’s emergency management and 911 director.
The Missouri River already crested upstream of Omaha, Nebraska, though hundreds of people remained out of their homes and water continued to pour through busted levees.
Flooding was so bad around Fremont, Nebraska, that just one lane of U.S. 30 was uncovered outside the city of 26,000.
State law enforcement limited traffic on that road to pre-approved trucks carrying gas, food, water and other essential supplies.
“There are no easy fixes to any of this,” said Fremont City Administrator Brian Newton. “We need Mother Nature to decrease the height of the river.”
In southwest Iowa, the Missouri River reached a level in Fremont County that was 2 feet (0.6 meter) above a record set in 2011. The county’s emergency management director, Mike Crecelius, said Monday that more water was flooding into low-lying parts of Hamburg, where a wall of sand-filled barriers was breached when one failed.
President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that he is staying in close contact with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem about the flooding.
Trump asked Vice President Mike Pence to go survey the flood damage in Nebraska Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in the tweet .
She did not say where in Nebraska Pence would go. / gsg
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