It’s November 21, 2019, day 252 of the Flood of 2019. The flooding began on March 15th with a late winter “bomb cyclone” snow and rainstorm. Four days later, on March 17, the Missouri River at Nebraska City, Nebraska reached a record high of 30.1 feet, over 22 feet above flood stage. For months afterward, every bridge across the Missouri River for 115 miles from Omaha, Nebraska, to St. Josephs, Missouri, was impassible. People living in the Loess Hills of Iowa, where Waubonsie State Park is, had their nine-mile commute to Nebraska City suddenly become a 120-mile ordeal. For six months.
Nebraska City sits on the banks of the Missouri River just south of its confluence with the Platte River. The Platte River drains 50,000 square miles of the eastern Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, northern Colorado, and the Great Plains of Nebraska. The Missouri River is the longest river in the United States coursing over 2300 miles from its headwaters in Yellowstone National Park to the Mississippi River north of St. Louis. It drains over 520,000 square miles of land, over one-sixth of the United States. Last winter brought record snows to the mountains and 200-400% of the average rain. Snowmelt, accelerated by persistent spring rains, resulted in this catastrophic flooding. The forecast for the upcoming winter is just as snowy.
Today, the Missouri River is at 19.7 feet, 1.7 feet above flood stage and forecast to remain above flood stage into December. Homes, fields and roads are still underwater.
The US Army Corps of Engineers will spend $1 billion on temporary levee repairs patching the 40 breached levees between Omaha and Kansas City. Highway 2 that joins Nebraska city to Iowa is being raised to prevent a recurrence of the bridge closure and the severe economic impact it had on the region.
The project will be completed in November 2020. In the meantime, the six Missouri River reservoirs upstream are at capacity. And Montana and North Dakota have already had record amounts of snow.
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