We should commend Christopher Heady, the University of Nebraska men's basketball beat writer. Flying back from the Big 10 tournament in Chicago, Heady took some remarkable photos out the window of his airplane and then threw them up onto the electric Twitter machine, and those pictures were the first look I had of the fact that a good part of the Great Plains was underwater.
For two weeks now, an unprecedented combination of circumstances has essentially drowned huge sections of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Kansas. More than two hundred levees have been breached. Three people have died. Thousands of farms, which weren't doing well anyway, have been destroyed. Towns, large and small, have been inundated. And there doesn't seem to any end to it, either. From US News:
Tom Bullock, emergency management director for Missouri's Holt County, told AP that homes in a mostly rural area of the county were inundated with 6 to 7 feet of water from the Missouri River..."The water isn't going to be gone, and the levees aren't going to be fixed this year," Bullock told AP.
The factors behind the flooding are not complicated. From LiveScience:
Two giant waves of water are rolling down from the country's far-northern middle expanse. One wave is following the path of the Missouri River toward the Mississippi River, carrying with it big chunks of ice. The second wave is taking a similar path down the Mississippi River from Minnesota. Both are the result of a long winter of heavy snowfall in Minnesota and the Dakotas followed by a short, sharp melt. Both floods are more or less each one giant wave traveling at the speeds of their rivers, said Darone Jones, director of the Water Prediction Operations Division (WPOD) at the at the National Weather Service’s National Water Center (NWC) in Alabama.
The North Dakota wave traveled down the Missouri River to Nebraska and yesterday (March 18) reached northwestern Missouri. After passing Kansas City it will turn left, following the river, and make its way toward the joining of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers in St. Louis. The Minnesota wave is taking the more straightforward route down the Mississippi River through Iowa, past St. Louis and into the ocean. Along the way, both waves should lose some water, so the downstream floods may not be as intense as those upstream. It takes about 28 days for a drop of water originating in North Dakota to make its way down the Missouri River to the ocean, Jones told Live Science.
The damage is extraordinary. From the Des Moines Register:
Reynolds also toured Hamburg Monday afternoon, where more than half of the city is underwater. Power to the city's water treatment plant was shut off Sunday, and water flooded the plant starting Monday morning, according to the Department of Natural Resources. In Council Bluffs Monday afternoon, Reynolds said 41 counties have requested and been approved for help through the governor's disaster proclamation that was issued Thursday. President Donald Trump tweeted his support for Reynolds and officials managing the floodwaters.
As bad as things are in Iowa, they're worse in Nebraska, which is ground zero for the catastrophe. The folks at Heady's newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald, have been doing terrific work-especially the paper's photographers-and, for a few long days, they had the story all to themselves. Now, as the waters slowly recede, the state is faced with an enormous recovery that likely will take years.
Five days after the flooding began in earnest, the magnitude of devastation continued to come into focus as 64 of Nebraska’s 93 counties and four tribal areas had declared a state of emergency. Some Nebraskans returned to their homes Monday to find structural damage and water in their basements. Others, still barred from their residences by washed-out roads, were stuck wondering if they had anything to return to. And across the Missouri River, ongoing flooding in places like the small town of Pacific Junction, Iowa, is causing millions of dollars in damage.
Combine the bridge work with about 200 miles of roads that will need repairs, and Kyle Schneweis, director of the State Department of Transportation, said he’s confident that “hundreds of millions of dollars” will be necessary. Meanwhile, agriculture is taking a big hit. Steve Nelson, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, estimated that there will be $400 million to $500 million in livestock losses and about $400 million in crop losses.
In case you were wondering, the climate crisis isn't coming. It's already here. The one institution of government that actually believes that is the United States military, and that's a good thing, too, because, in this case, the exaggerated effect of the crisis and the extreme weather that results from it-the blizzards, the "bomb cyclone," the huge snowmelt, and the flooding-has become the national security threat that the Pentagon has seen coming.
Again, from the World-Herald:
Even the U.S. Air Force couldn’t stop the Mighty Missouri River from flooding Offutt Air Force Base. Between Saturday night and early Sunday, the 55th Wing called off a 30-hour, round-the-clock sandbagging effort because the floodwaters were rising too fast. “It was a lost cause. We gave up,” said Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake, a 55th Wing spokeswoman. By Sunday morning, one-third of the base was underwater, she said. Thirty buildings, including the 55th Wing headquarters and the two major aircraft maintenance facilities, had been flooded with up to 8 feet of water, and 30 more structures damaged. About 3,000 feet of the base’s 11,700-foot runway was submerged. No one, though, had been injured.
At Offutt, the 55th Wing managed to fly out nine of the 33 reconnaissance jets based there Saturday evening, according to 55th Wing Commander Col. Michael Manion’s official Facebook post. Some were flown to the Lincoln Airport, where the Nebraska Air National Guard has a base. Five planes were still parked on the northwest taxiway and the apron Sunday morning. Blake said it’s not clear yet when or whether they’ll be moved. No planes have been damaged in the floods.
Offutt is a big deal. It's the home of the United States Strategic Command, which those of us who grew up in the Cold War knew as the Strategic Air Command. (1955, starring James Stewart and June Allyson). Military construction funds, by the way, which certainly would come in handy in Offutt's recovery, represent some of the money that the administration* would like to raid in order to build the big, beautiful, stupid wall. The Chinese hoaxsters have planned this well.
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