Long, costly recovery lies ahead after catastrophic US flooding
Floodwaters began to slowly recede on Tuesday in inundated areas of six states of the Midwestern United States, including Nebraska and Iowa, revealing the scope of a recovery effort that is expected to cost several billion dollars.
The flooding triggered by a powerful late-winter storm known as a “bomb cyclone,” which hit the US Midwest last week, has left at least three dead and two missing and forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes.
According to the US Army Corps of Engineers, more than 320 kilometers (around 200 miles) of levees were breached in four states: Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas.
Floodwaters also rose to historically high levels in 42 locations in the six affected states.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday at a news conference that the flooding was “the most widespread disaster we’ve had in our state’s history.”
At least 64 of 93 counties and four tribal areas have declared states of emergency in Nebraska, where crop and livestock losses are estimated to total more than $1 billion.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday that US Vice President Mike Pence would be visiting the region on Tuesday and that he, Ricketts and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds would “survey the damage from the terrible flooding that’s impacted much of the Midwest.”
Work to replace or repair 14 important bridges, as well as more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) of damaged roads, will cost “hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Kyle Schneweis, director of Nebraska’s State Department of Transportation.
Flood damage was visible up and the down the Missouri River, including parts of South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas, which also faces a long and costly recovery period, according to local officials.
Pacific Junction, a small town in western Iowa with just 471 inhabitants, was completely inundated by the swollen Missouri River’s floodwaters and suffered several millions of dollars in damage.
Gov. Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for 15 counties and urged residents of those areas to cooperate with local and state authorities to determine the extent of their losses.
She also activated the state’s Individual Assistance Grant Program, which provides grants of up to $5,000 for low-income households displaced by the flooding, and the Disaster Case Management program, which provides state aid to those who have suffered a “disaster-related hardship, injury, or adverse condition.”
In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson urged residents to exercise caution in flooded areas because the level of the river in that state was expected to continue to rise this week.
As a precaution, the state has closed 104 roads and the State Emergency Operations Center is assisting the city of St. Joseph, located on the Missouri River, with efforts to set up sandbags to reduce floodwater impacts.