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Midwestern Floods: What Are You Seeing?

Omaha, the week before the flood, via Landsat (Geolounge screengrab [1])

Omaha, in flood, from Landsat (Geolounge screengrab [1])

Readers, I have to go out for a few hours on a sudden errand. When I get back, I would like to hear from you who are in the flood zones of Nebraska and Iowa. It’s amazing how little coverage your tragedy is receiving. If I didn’t follow the Twitter accounts of Sen. Ben Sasse and Jake Meador, I would barely know a thing about it. I know the same thing happened in 2016 when we had the devastating Louisiana floods.

Please let the rest of us know what you’re seeing, how you’re doing, and how the rest of us can help.

39 Comments (Open | Close)

39 Comments To "Midwestern Floods: What Are You Seeing?"

#1 Comment By Liam On March 20, 2019 @ 11:34 am

I am seeing a fair bit of coverage here in eastern New England, FWIW; news outlets here know New Englanders gravitate to stories about floods. People in alluvial plains here (of course not as vast as Nebraska) away the Great Melt with trepidation this spring, especially since a large storm is about to dump more snow across the Adirondacks and northernmost Appalachian mountain chains. Consequently, that means we also get stories about historical precedents (here, spring 1936).

#2 Comment By Elijah On March 20, 2019 @ 11:45 am

I would not have even known about the flooding if not for this post.

#3 Comment By Pastor Brian On March 20, 2019 @ 12:29 pm

My home is safe, but my daughters have classmates who are currently living in hotels. There are several small communities west of us that are cut off. Supplies are being delivered by helicopter. Many flooded rivers are 1-5 feet above any record high seen before. Farmers are devastated and portions of I-29 are under water.

#4 Comment By gus On March 20, 2019 @ 12:35 pm

And as in 2016 with the Louisiana floods, I have to wonder what media you’re consuming. I heard a chat on NPR yesterday with a Nebraska sheriff and another report on NPR with a couple whose land had been flooded. There is no shortage of coverage.

#5 Comment By Elijah On March 20, 2019 @ 12:38 pm

So I went and looked up some news on the floods and you really do have to look. The headlines are the latest nothingburger from the Mueller probe and Beto eating dirt. Good.Grief.

Remember when people suffering from disaster were news?

#6 Comment By JonF On March 20, 2019 @ 12:44 pm

I’m seeing stuff linked on Facebook. Didn’t notice anything in today’s Baltimore Sun, and I don’t watch tV news so can’t comment about that.

#7 Comment By Heidi On March 20, 2019 @ 12:49 pm

I’ve been trying to follow along as well; Samaritan’s Purse is finally on the ground there assessing.

#8 Comment By John R On March 20, 2019 @ 1:05 pm

Spoke with a friend this morning who returned from an annual family visit in South Dakota and Nebraska. Their trip was cut short due to roads being washed out in Nebraska – they were unable to travel on I29, a major thoroughfare in eastern Nebraska.

Per my friend, the infrastructure damage to roads and bridges is staggering. His relatives don’t know what they will do given the massive scope of the damage: there is no time line when repairs will even begin. While the loss of life is been minimal (thankfully), their way of life has suffered a long term disruption with no relief in sight (schedule when the roads are repaired and bridges rebuilt).

#9 Comment By Ian On March 20, 2019 @ 1:13 pm

Here’s a great summary of what people can do to help folks in Nebraska:

#10 Comment By Joanna ? On March 20, 2019 @ 1:30 pm

You can donate here:

#11 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 20, 2019 @ 1:32 pm

Its definitely been in the daily papers. Maybe the internet isn’t covering it.

This is a rather predictable effect of increased global temperatures. Maybe its all fake news?

#12 Comment By genotypical On March 20, 2019 @ 1:39 pm

“It’s amazing how little coverage your tragedy is receiving.”

Whaaaat? Just on the NY Times website I count 2 articles so far today, 5 yesterday, 4 the day before that, haven’t looked farther back.

#13 Comment By Alcuin On March 20, 2019 @ 1:51 pm

From the Omaha World-Herald Newspaper:


For the same reason that some of Shakespeare’s funnier lines are in his tragedies, here’s a touch of relief from the devastation of my beloved Cornhsuker State:


#14 Comment By La Lubu On March 20, 2019 @ 2:52 pm

I’m not from here, but have been working here (and will be for the foreseeable future). Anyway…there was only one route in to my jobsite for the past several days (the toll bridge in Bellevue just opened up last night). Several people on my job lost their homes. Some travelers lost their trailers. Most of the travelers that went home to see their families over an extended weekend had long, circuitous routes back to this area as so many roads have been closed.

There is a lot of coverage in local media, but frankly most of the coverage I’ve seen has been through Facebook and cellphone (people showing their personal photos at breaktime).

The steward on the job said there will be a fundraiser to help those in need.

Being a lifelong midwesterner, I’m jaundiced about national coverage of any of our disasters, be they natural or man-made. Nobody cares about flyover country until it starts costing them money. Or elections. (don’t get me started….)

#15 Comment By Bob Loblaw On March 20, 2019 @ 2:53 pm

PBS Newshour has done lengthy reports on it the past few days. The flooding is truly incredible.

#16 Comment By Collin On March 20, 2019 @ 2:58 pm

Yea, I am really surprised that there is not more coverage here and this is awful. (Note this was completely expected as MN had one of the coldest winters and now fairly seasonally warm.)

This is one of the times that an average President would be making announcements.

#17 Comment By Suze On March 20, 2019 @ 3:35 pm

The flood, ice, and blizzard damage from last week’s storms in Nebraska is staggering and widespread, largely affecting small towns and rural agricultural areas. Roads, bridges, dams, homes, farms, and businesses have been destroyed. Several people have lost their lives, and many livestock have perished. The latest estimate is $1.3 billion in damage.

Here are some preliminary estimates of the losses from this article in The Omaha World Herald:
[5] (see also photos at the end).

-$439 million in infrastructure damage, such as roads, bridges and water systems.
– 2,039 homes damaged or lost.
– 340 businesses damaged or destroyed.
– $400 million in livestock losses, which includes losses from the blizzard in western Nebraska.
– $440 million in crop losses, which includes land that cannot be planted this year or will see delayed planting.
-13 state highway bridges washed out, plus 3 with washed out approaches.
-375 miles of state highways closed due to debris or water (as of today).
-200 miles of state highways are unusable, requiring repairs or rebuilding.

This story has finally been getting some national coverage. Here is a piece from The Atlantic with photos. [6]

The capitol city of Lincoln did not have flooding, but is under mandatory water restrictions due to a loss of power to the pumps in the wellfields providing its water supply. The restrictions are a minor inconvenience compared with the catastrophic losses elsewhere.

An elderly couple we know was evacuated by boat from their home, which was surrounded by water and flooded on the lower level. Although most of their possessions escaped damage and they have a place to stay with family, it all has been very stressful. The amount of cleanup required is so overwhelming that they might just decide it’s not worth it.

There are a number of drone videos online that provide an aerial view of the damage.


Here’s one with lots of detail, for anyone interested in watching for 20 minutes.

How can you help?
From [9]

Accepting Donations:
-The Salvation Army salarmyomaha.org
-The American Red Cross of Nebraska and Southwest Iowa redcross.org
-Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska cssisus.org (designate for “flood relief”)
-Lutheran Family Services lfsneb.org/flood
-Nebraska Farm Bureau [10]

And, of course, please keep those affected in prayer.

#18 Comment By Billy Rubin On March 20, 2019 @ 3:40 pm

Why isn’t this covered more, Rod? This affects only the benighted people in flyover country…

#19 Comment By BlairBurton On March 20, 2019 @ 3:57 pm

Second hand, but friends in Nebraska, in Bellevue, have lost everything. They, their children, and their dogs are safe but the family cat hid and couldn’t be found during the mandatory evacuation. They had a standard basketball hoop outside their house, and from a picture, the water was halfway up the net on the hoop; that’s 10 feet of polluted water.

#20 Comment By Dave Griffey On March 20, 2019 @ 4:11 pm

The morning news has covered it, at least during opening segments and first half hour. Nothing extensive, but it is being mentioned.

#21 Comment By Molly On March 20, 2019 @ 4:31 pm

Made the NYTimes today.

#22 Comment By Theo On March 20, 2019 @ 4:40 pm

I buy beef from a rancher in Nebraska, that’s how I know about it, happened to call him the day the storm hit last week. It was hard for him to talk, he said he’d call me back. I’ve been following it on Twitter, the only place I can find any news about it, #nebraskaflooding. It’s heartbreaking. Hundreds of bridges out, roads gone, towns underwater. Calves had just dropped – and calves are the first to drown in a flood like this. Pictures of scores of cows packed onto little islands in the middle of massive waterflows, with no way for ranchers to get to them. Acres of land completely covered with ice chunks taller than a man. Unbelievable that our “news” media is just ignoring it – and Nebraskans are infuriated. Guess flyover country really doesn’t matter to coastal elites even when lives, livestock, livelihoods and property are being lost. And most frightening, my rancher never called back nor have I been able to get hold of him, though I’ve called repeatedly. I pray he, his family and his ranch made it through okay.

#23 Comment By Harve On March 20, 2019 @ 4:58 pm

“If I didn’t follow the Twitter accounts of Sen. Ben Sasse and Jake Meador, I would barely know a thing about it. I know the same thing happened in 2016 when we had the devastating Louisiana floods.”

Given your reaction to the coverage a couple of years ago, I’ve been wondering for a while if this was going to get a mention here. I’ve been seeing coverage on the various sites I follow for awhile, ditto for the La. floods.

We should keep in mind that disasters like this are hard to cover because they creep up on us and are spread out – fires are dramatic point events and hurricanes on the mainland are anticipated and stageable. A flood from a dam brake would get lots of coverage.

Still, this should be a reality check and constitutes an sign that one is in a silo and needs to curate ones sources.

Siarlys Jenkins says:

“Its definitely been in the daily papers. Maybe the internet isn’t covering it.”

“This is a rather predictable effect of increased global temperatures. Maybe its all fake news?”

Bingo! If one’s salary depends…

[NFR: To be fair to the media, some readers say they’ve seen a lot of coverage. I think that this is an example of how silo’d we tend to be, even if we don’t mean to be. Sometimes a reader or two will accuse me of ignoring a particular news event because I haven’t posted on it — and I haven’t even heard of it! — RD]

#24 Comment By MrsCole On March 20, 2019 @ 5:16 pm

The only reason I know about it is FB friends reposting things. But then, we are still flailing around in the wake of October’s hurricane. Local news is a bit biased.

#25 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 20, 2019 @ 5:27 pm

The headlines are the latest nothingburger from the Mueller probe and Beto eating dirt. Good.Grief.

Haven’t seen those. What media are you consuming?

I note that Rod’s response to Harve, who among other things mentioned my previous comment, seems to be a fair assessment. Yes, some of us have seen it, so its not like “the media” are all ignoring it, but, some have not, so something is uneven.

#26 Comment By GeriUpNorth On March 20, 2019 @ 5:44 pm

Watch The Weather Channel if you want to see coverage of the flooding. They’ve been reporting on it nonstop for days now.

#27 Comment By TR On March 20, 2019 @ 6:28 pm

My cable service no longer gets the Weather Channel but Accuweather has certainly covered it. Honestly, I look at the local newspaper so fast these days that the story could be on page 1 below the fold and I might miss it.

But it really is harder these days to predict what will be in the papers, except for news from the Swamp.

#28 Comment By Luddene Perry On March 20, 2019 @ 6:32 pm

I live 200 miles west of Omaha, nothing much here, but further north on the Loup and Elkhorn rivers there are lots of small towns completely submerged. All of these towns have 200-400 people in them and that’s going to be a real problem to bring them back. All of these towns are barely hanging on as it is.

One reason this has been so devastating is most of the ground is still frozen so when it rained 3-5″ last week the water couldn’t soak in. The other reason is much of NE is FLAT. Not only have people lost their homes, but this calving time, so beef cows are dropping their calves into standing water. Expect beef prices to rise. NE’s nickname? The Beef State.

Further, farmers often store their corn in big bins so they can sell it in the spring when prices are higher. If they can’t get it out and dried, they it will mold and they will have lost their 2018 crop.

#29 Comment By Old West On March 20, 2019 @ 6:35 pm

“This is a rather predictable effect of increased global temperatures. Maybe its all fake news?”

We could have used a little global warming in my part of Old West country this year.

#30 Comment By JonF On March 20, 2019 @ 6:50 pm

The flooding is widespread in the Midwest. A Facebook friend (an erstwhile roommate from years past) now lives in Fairport (I think) Illinois and he’s been posting pics of flooding in that area– not as severe as Nebraska, but definitely rivers over their banks.

#31 Comment By JonF On March 20, 2019 @ 6:54 pm

Re: Watch The Weather Channel if you want to see coverage of the flooding. They’ve been reporting on it nonstop for days now.

This was the case during the Louisiana floods in 2016 too, which were also under-reported otherwise. We had a terrible flood, with fatalities, near Baltimore in the same time frame then and the pictures were all over the media– maybe because we’re near Washington, maybe because it was a wealthy upper middle class suburb affected, maybe because the flood produced some striking “OMG WTF!” videos. The Weather Channel is very good at reporting on natural disasters just about anywhere. They’ve also featured the deadly recent hurricane and flooding damage in Mozambique.

#32 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 20, 2019 @ 10:41 pm

We could have used a little global warming in my part of Old West country this year.

You got it. This weather pattern IS part of what happens when global temperatures rise. Including the polar vortex and the extra snow. I didn’t learn about this since Al Gore made his movie. Some of it was in scientific articles when I was in high school or younger. Just basic geology, paleaontology and weather studies.

When things warm up, the artic melts, more moisture evaporates into the northern atmosphere, more erratic wind activity, the waters of the Atlantic and the Arctic mix over a shallow sand bar as the ocean levels rise… the net result could be a century where the northern hemisphere gets so much snowfall, so late in the season, that it doesn’t all melt in the summer… and after a hundred years we have glaciers. Don’t worry, they will melt after another 10,000 years and we can reclaim the land.

#33 Comment By Jen On March 21, 2019 @ 6:02 am

Good grief. It’s been all over the news. I’ve seen numerous headlines in the NYT, Washington Post, Slate, Seattle Times, CNN, Mother Jones, and all of the TV networks’ websites. You really have to be off the grid to not hear about this.

#34 Comment By Ernst Schreiber On March 21, 2019 @ 9:56 am

A flood from a dam brake would get lots of coverage.

A dam [11].

#35 Comment By Kirk On March 21, 2019 @ 2:16 pm

Much more to come this spring, per NOAA: 25 states could experience “major or moderate flooding.”

#36 Comment By Harve On March 21, 2019 @ 3:35 pm

Ernst Schreiber says:

“A dam did break.”

I was thinking of a stand alone event along the lines of Johnstown or the San Francisquito Dam. A number of years ago we came close to losing Glen Canyon and that would likely have taken out Hoover and that would have been covered bigly. Fortunately this was not that scale

“The good news? Almost all of the 300 or so residents of Niobrara live on higher ground, and weren’t directly hurt by the floodwaters.”


Kirk says:

“Much more to come this spring, per NOAA: 25 states could experience “major or moderate flooding.”’

And then comes wildfire season.

#37 Comment By Suze On March 21, 2019 @ 7:07 pm

For anyone who would like to help with the flood cleanup effort, Samaritan’s Purse is organizing teams of volunteers.


#38 Comment By Matth On March 21, 2019 @ 11:57 pm

I’ve been working in Omaha since last April, and seeing the surrounding country from the airplane this afternoon on my way home was surreal. I’ve seen plenty of localized flooding in my day, growing up on the Chain o’ Lakes in Illinois, but this was on a different level.

One thing that I’m not sure has been reported much is that in 2011, the Missouri River suffered a 1000 flood event. It was only a few months after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, and a nuclear plant of similar design called Cooper Nuclear Station was within a couple feet of being flooded just like Fukushima. I followed that story very closely at the time.

Now, less than a decade later, this flood absolutely destroyed the 2011 records. The river at Cooper, for instance, was set to go well above the emergency levels of 2011until three levees upstream in Iowa failed, diverting water to Iowan plains. Even still, the water level got within a foot of the at the time unimaginably high water level seen in 2011. Nuclear safety has been tightened since 2011 considerably, so its unlikely anything disastrous would have occurred, but I use Cooper as an example because the reporting is easy to track down from 2011.

It’s something to think about, the fact that what was a thousand year event in 2011 has now not only happened again a decade later but it’s significantly worse this time around.

#39 Comment By Amy Johnson On March 25, 2019 @ 6:01 pm

Nebraska is facing a tough road ahead. As an editor of a community newspaper in Springview, Nebraska, it is extremely hard to report on a disaster of this magnitude. Much of the coverage on the flooding has been in the metropolitan areas of Nebraska, i.e. Fremont, Omaha, Norfolk. But from the research I have uncovered it began with the heavy rainfall and ice along the Niobrara River, which was the demise of the Spencer Dam. Although we experienced flooding in our county, much of the devastation occurred to our neighbors to the east.

What is going unreported, or at least I feel is, is the impact to agriculture this flood is having. Not just to Nebraska’s but to anyone who enjoys food. I predict that grain markets and the price of hay and livestock will reflect this later.

1-2% of people are farming/ranching and feeding the world. Many of those 1-2% are living and working hard in Nebraska.

I pray for all those fighting for #nebraskastrong