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News: Top Stories

Satellite images show the devastating floods in the Midwest

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 3/19/2019 Bonnie Berkowitz, Laris Karklis, Tim Meko

In this Monday, March 18, 2019, photo taken by the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol and provided by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, shows flooding along the Missouri River in River Sioux, Iowa. (Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management via AP)

In this Monday, March 18, 2019, photo taken by the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol and provided by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, shows flooding along the Missouri River in River Sioux, Iowa. (Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management via AP)
© ASSOCIATED PRESS

Much of the Midwest is dealing with catastrophic flooding this week along the Missouri and Mississippi river basins, the result of a hurricane-like winter storm called a “bomb cyclone” that dropped huge amounts of rain, melted existing snow and caused torrents of water to wash nearly unimpeded across the frozen ground. 

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The worst flooding has been in Nebraska and Iowa, but parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota and bordering states were also affected and may have to contend with more flooding this week. Several people have died, and hundreds more have been driven from their homes. Access to some places has been completely cut off by high water. 

This false-color satellite image from March 15 shows snow cover to the west and flooding along the Missouri River in the very dark areas. Compared to the same area last May, the swollen tributaries of the Mississippi River are apparent. The reddish areas are vegetation, and the white areas are snow.

On March 14, Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River gave way and an 11-foot wall of water rushed through. A hydroelectric plant just downstream was destroyed when the dam broke and an ice floe rammed the building.

About one third of Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha was underwater as of March 17, including 3,000 feet of the base’s 11,700-foot runway. At least 30 buildings were damaged, according to Air Force Times. The 55th Wing headquarters and two aircraft maintenance facilities were inundated by up to eight feet of water. U.S. Strategic Command headquarters sits at higher elevation and was not affected.

Images from DigitalGlobe show the extent of the flooding.

Just south of the air base, the town of La Platte was inundated.

On the other side of the Missouri River in western Iowa, the entire town of Pacific Junction was evacuated.

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