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The Midwestern United States has been experiencing major floods since mid-March 2019, primarily along the Missouri River and its tributaries in Nebraska, Missouri, South Dakota, Iowa, and Kansas. The Mississippi River has also seen flooding, but to a lesser extent. The 2019 January-to-May period was the wettest on record for the U.S., with multiple severe weather outbreaks through May in the Midwest, High Plains, and South exacerbating the flooding and causing additional damage.[1][2][3] Throughout late May and early June, rain in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri caused every site on the Mississippi River to record a top-five crest.[4] At least three people in Iowa and Nebraska have died.[5]

2019 Midwestern U.S. floods
Historic floods have inundated Nebraska (40463013783).jpg
March 2018 and March 2019 side-by-side comparison of the Omaha–Council Bluffs metropolitan area showing effects of flooding of the Platte and Missouri Rivers.
DateMarch 2019 – present
LocationMidwestern United States
Property damage$2.9 billion (1.6B in Iowa; 1.3B in Nebraska)



From January until early March, average temperatures in the Midwest remained in the low 20 to 30 average degree Fahrenheit range, with record snowfall in many areas, including the early March blizzard, up to three feet on the ground in some areas.[6] In Nebraska, over the course of three days (March 11 – 13),[7] temperatures rose to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, combined with 1.5 inches of rain. This quickly melted the snow, and the frozen ground was not able to absorb any meaningful amount, which led to unprecedented runoff into local streams and rivers.[8] Saturated soils, combined with elevated river flow from the previous fall, led to severe, widespread flooding across the Eastern U.S.[4] Many of the rivers were still frozen over with a thick layer of ice, which the powerful flow of water broke up and dislodged, creating massive chunks of ice that traveled downstream, acting like a plow.[9]



Illinois has been affected by the flooding and the Illinois National Guard has been activated to assist with the efforts along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.[10][11]


Iowa was also affected by heavy rains and flooding, closing parts of all nine state parks. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed an emergency disaster proclamation March 14th.[12] One man was killed in Iowa.[13] Flooding across Iowa was described as "catastrophic" especially in the Missouri River Valley south of Council Bluffs, Iowa. There, at east 30 levee failures flooded towns and highways. Interstate 29 was closed from Council Bluffs to the Missouri state border and from there to St. Joseph, Missouri, with portions of the interstate under 15 ft (4.6 m) of water.[14]

Govenor Kim Reynolds estimates the damage at $1.6 billion, a state record. Reynolds asked the president to declare a disaster in 67 counties.[15][16]

In Hamburg, the town lost sewage and gas services, according to city officials.[17]


The entire community of Craig, Missouri, as well as parts of St. Joseph, Missouri had been evacuated,[18] portions of Interstate 29 had been under 15 feet (4.6 metres) of water. On March 21, a state of emergency was issued by Governor Mike Parson, who said:

Picture taken in Rocheport, MO during the flood of 2019.


Aerial view of Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, flooded

On March 14, 2019, the Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River collapsed and the unrestrained flooding destroyed 3 bridges downstream including the Highway 281 bridge.[20] In east central Nebraska, residents along the flooded Missouri, Platte and Elkhorn Rivers were forced to evacuate as some locals experienced all-time record flooding. The city of Norfolk, Nebraska evacuated a third of its residents.[21] The Platte and Elkhorn Rivers had overflowed their levees in the greater Omaha, Nebraska region and some communities were put under a mandatory evacuation order. The Platte River at numerous sites had reached flooding of "historical proportions" with some sites breaking all-time record flood levels by as much as 5 feet (1.5 m).[22] By March 15, access to the city of Fremont was blocked due to all roads being closed in and out of the city.[23] This remained the case days later with national guard military convoys being set up to get food and other supplies into the city.

Offutt Air Force Base had extensive flooding from the Platte River, inundating 30 buildings and 3,000 ft (910 m) of their only runway.[24] The base received damage that is said to "not be repaired for months", which has caused some events to be moved back.[25] Camp Ashland, one of the Nebraska National Guard’s main training sites, was also extensively damaged, with 51 of 62 buildings affected. Military representatives stated that the flooding is the worst that the camp has seen in its history, including a serious flood from 2015 that cost 3.7 million in repairs. It will be months before the base can support even minimal operations.[26]

On March 18, Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts declared a state of emergency and stated that the floods caused "[t]he most extensive damage our state has ever experienced."[27]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Severe Won't Let Up: Major Outbreak and Flood Threat Looming for Monday by Bob Henson | Category 6". Weather Underground. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  2. ^ "Classic Spring Severe Weather Outbreak on Tap for Southern Plains by Bob Henson | Category 6". Weather Underground. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  3. ^ "Wettest 12 Months in U.S. History—Again by Bob Henson | Category 6". Weather Underground. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  4. ^ a b US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "Spring Flooding Summary 2019". Retrieved July 8, 2019.
  5. ^ Smith, Mitch (March 20, 2019). "An Iowa Town Fought and Failed to Save a Levee. Then Came the Flood". The New York Times. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  6. ^ Hassan, Adeel (March 18, 2019). "Why Is There Flooding in Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin?". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Omaha Month Weather - AccuWeather Forecast for NE 68102". AccuWeather.
  8. ^ Hassan, Adeel (March 18, 2019). "Why Is There Flooding in Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin?". The New York Times. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  9. ^ Bureau, Paul Hammel World-Herald. "Propelled by ferocious floodwaters, huge ice chunks batter buildings in Niobrara".
  10. ^ "Pritzker Activates Illinois National Guard Amid Flooding". NBC Chicago.
  11. ^ "National Guard arrives in Southern Illinois to help with flood preparation efforts". bnd.
  12. ^ "Late-winter storm hits Midwest after paralyzing Colorado". Twin Cities. March 14, 2019. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  13. ^ Johnson, Alex. "Historic flooding kills three, forces hundreds from homes across the Midwest" (March 17, 2019). NBC News. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  14. ^ Norvell, Kim (March 20, 2019). "Number of levee breaches up to 30 from 12, and Iowa's flood season is just getting started". Des Moines register. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  15. ^ "Flood Damage costs 1.6 billion in Iowa". Associated Press. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  16. ^ "Flooding causes estimated $1.6B damage in Iowa". KCCI. March 22, 2019.
  17. ^ Everson, Sean (March 19, 2019). "Hamburg, Iowa, devastated by flooding, is without water, sewage and gas". KETV Omaha. ABC. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  18. ^ "People in Craig, Missouri, told to 'evacuate town immediately' after levee breach". KNBC Kansas City. March 20, 2019. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  19. ^ Hollingsworth, Heather. "Missouri declares state of emergency amid flooding; Nebraska estimates over $1 billion in damage". Associated Press. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  20. ^ "Spencer Dam collapsed". Siouxland Proud. March 14, 2019. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  21. ^ "Flash flood emergency up for Platte after ice jam breaks; 1 missing in Norfolk". Lincoln Journal Star. March 14, 2019. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  22. ^ Duffy, Erin; Gaarder, Nancy; Peters, Chris (March 15, 2019). "Flood emergency declared for western Douglas County; weather service urges residents to evacuate". Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  23. ^ writer, Blake Ursch World-Herald staff. "Access to Fremont blocked due to road closures caused by record flooding".
  24. ^ Liewer, Steve. "One-third of Offutt underwater; at least 30 buildings damaged in flood". Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  25. ^ Ortega, Jennifer. "HEARTLAND FLOOD: Offutt begins long road to recovery from flood".
  26. ^ "Nebraska National Guard camp recovering after worst flooding of the last century, official says". Stars and Stripes.
  27. ^ Ristau, Reece (March 19, 2019). "Floodwaters receding in Nebraska, but long and costly recovery lies ahead". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved March 19, 2019 – via Omaha World-Herald.

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