Record-breaking flooding in Nebraska is visible from space

Governor Pete Ricketts has declared more than half of
Nebraska’s 93 counties a disaster area as record-breaking spring
floods have swollen into a catastrophe. “This really is the most
devastating flooding we’ve probably ever had in our state’s
history, from the standpoint of how widespread it is,” Ricketts

told CNN on Monday
. Even the National Weather Service in Omaha
was forced to
abandon their office
due to flooding.

Pretty surreal flying into Omaha. Highways
fully submerged. pic.twitter.com/UPUY9fHyXN

— Christopher Heady (@heady_chris)
March 16, 2019

Here’s how it happened: Last week, a hurricane-strength
storm system
unleashed torrential rainfall over the
deep Nebraska snowpack
, flash-melting huge quantities of water
and
overwhelming dams and levees
. Unusually warm temperatures have
remained in place since the storm’s passage, worsening the
runoff. The resulting flooding has been visible
from space
.

USGS Landsat Program

Spring flooding happens nearly every year in the upper Midwest,
but current flooding has far surpassed previous all-time records on
Nebraska’s major waterways. Climate change means
springtime temperatures are arriving earlier
with more intense
early-season rains, worsening the risk of damaging floods. In one
location, the Missouri River broke its previous record by
nearly four feet
.

The most spectacular flooding resulted from the failure of the
90-year-old Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River in north-central
Nebraska when it unleashed an 11-foot wall of water on Thursday.
Before the flood gauge on the river failed, “it looked like
something incredible was happening that we couldn’t believe,”
Jason Lambrecht, a Nebraska-based hydrologist with the U.S.
Geological Survey
told the Lincoln Journal-Star
. “And suddenly, everything went
dark.”

The flash flood destroyed roads, homes, and bridges before
emptying into the Missouri River and joining with meltwater from
South Dakota and Iowa. On Saturday,
two levees breached on the Platte River
, cutting off the
town of Fremont, Nebraska
— the state’s sixth-largest city.
A volunteer
airlift
has been supplying the city over the weekend and
performing rescues.

As of Monday, water levels have crested in most of the state,
though major flooding will
continue for several days
. Offutt Air Force base near Omaha —
the home of U.S. Strategic Command — remains
inundated
, a poignant sign of climate change as a national
security risk. There are dozens of road closures across the
area.

Eastern Nebraska is just the worst-hit region: Major flooding is
currently underway
in parts of seven states in the upper Midwest
, with near-record
flooding expected to spread northward into Minnesota and North
Dakota
in the coming weeks
. In Minnesota, officials expect a
greater than 95 percent chance of major flooding
, possibly
rivaling all-time records.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline
Record-breaking flooding in Nebraska is visible from space
on
Mar 18, 2019.

Source: FS – All – Science – News
Record-breaking flooding in Nebraska is visible from space