Deadly floods flow into Missouri, other drenched Midwestern states

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters) – Frigid Missouri River floodwaters that left ruins, death and drowned livestock across the U.S. Midwest’s farmland were expected to crest in northwestern Missouri on Friday and threaten more towns and cities.

Buildings submerged in floodwaters in Bellevue, Nebraska, March 20, 2019. Bellevue (Nebraska) Police Department via REUTERS

Police issued voluntary evacuation orders for 200 to 300 homes in the small, riverfront city of St. Joseph, Missouri, where early on Friday North America’s longest river was at 31.43 feet (9.58 meters), about 6 inches (15 cm) below its record level.

“For the next few hours, we still expect the river to rise,” said St. Joseph police Sergeant Casey Guyer, adding that some roadways were underwater. “Hopefully, in the next 24 hours the waterline starts to recede a little.”Officials said they expect levees to contain debris-laden river water as floodwaters head toward Kansas City, Missouri, about 55 miles (88 km) south of St. Joseph, then other population centers in Kansas and Missouri downstream.

If the temperature rises just a few degrees, melting more ice and snow, that could quickly push the estimated river crest higher, said David Roth of the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. The river could top levees or breach weak spots, he said.

Daytime temperatures in the Midwest are already about 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, Roth said, and will hit as high as 60 degrees F (16 Celsius) in parts of the region on Friday, including St. Joseph and Kansas City.

Evacuation sirens rang on Thursday night in Elwood, Kansas, a community of 1,200 people across the river from St. Joseph. Early Friday, the river there was at 31.33 feet, just shy of flowing over the top of Elwood’s levee system, according to forecasters.

Missouri River flooding was triggered by last week’s so-called “bomb cyclone” storm, which has already inflicted damage estimated at nearly $1.5 billion in Nebraska, killed at least four people in Nebraska and Iowa, and left a man missing below Nebraska’s collapsed Spencer Dam.

“This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk,” Ed Clark, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, said in the agency’s spring outlook.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson declared a state of emergency for his state on Wednesday as high water forced evacuations of several small farm communities.

The declaration allows state resources and assistance to be provided directly to counties and municipalities in need.

President Donald Trump on Thursday approved a disaster declaration for Nebraska, making federal funding available in nine counties there that had born the brunt of last week’s floods.

The threat of extensive flooding lingers over the wider region and could grow dire in coming weeks with additional rainfall and melting snow runoff, NOAA said on Thursday.

Reporting by Karen Dillon; Additional reporting and writing by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by William Maclean and Nick Carey

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