Historic, deadly Midwest floods are worst 'anybody has ever experienced' in some areas

Doyle Rice

Days of heavy rain and snowmelt brought historic flooding to the Upper Midwest on Friday. The floods have left one man dead, threatened a Nebraska dam and nuclear power plant, and halted traffic on the Missouri River. 

The situation has prompted evacuations in Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Heavy rain was courtesy of the massive "bomb cyclone" that battered the central United States this week with heavy snow, howling winds and several tornadoes. Rain and melting snow from the storm have already produced record high water levels along portions of the Boyer and Floyd rivers in Iowa and the Loup River in Nebraska, AccuWeather said.

So far, 19 locations in the Midwest have set new flood crest records, said weather.com meteorologist Jon Erdman. Overall, more than 300 river gauges were in flood stage in the central United States, the National Weather Service reported.

A Nebraska farmer was killed Thursday after the tractor he was in got carried away by floodwaters, the Omaha World-Herald said. 

The swollen Pecatonica River spills into downtown Darlington, Wis., on Thursday March 14, 2019. The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning or flood watch for about two-thirds of the state.

Also in Nebraska, the Cooper Nuclear Station along the swollen Missouri River will likely be shut down early Saturday as the river keeps rising, officials reported Friday. The shutdown is a precautionary measure only: even if it floods there is no danger, thanks to built-in safeguards, according to Nebraska Public Power District spokesman Mark Becker.

The U.S. Coast Guard says all traffic on the Missouri River from about 50 miles south of Omaha, Nebraska, downstream to St. Joseph, Missouri, has been shut down due to the river’s high water levels.

A Welcome to Wahoo sign stands in flood waters outside Wahoo, Neb., Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Record flooding swamped the central U.S. this week.

Flooding also reached the Dakotas: In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at the Leif Erickson YMCA camp, executive director Mike Murphy said "the severity of this particular flood event isn’t something that anybody has ever experienced. It came up so rapidly, we weren't able to get our vehicles out or get anything out that we could drive or save," he said.

More: Tornadoes hit Kentucky as deadly bomb cyclone pounds central US

Though dry weather is forecast for the next several days across much of the USA, this round of Midwest flooding should persist into the weekend, the weather service warned. 

AccuWeather warned that the worst flooding may be yet to come for some areas along the upper and middle portions of the Mississippi River over the next several weeks, as much of the snow over the northern Plains, Upper Midwest and central High Plains melts.

Contributing: Jeremy Fugleberg, Sioux Falls Argus Leader; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Historic, deadly Midwest floods are worst 'anybody has ever experienced' in some areas