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Nebraska flooding has turned towns into islands. Now more places could get submerged

Posted at 6:57 AM, Mar 18, 2019

This landlocked state shouldn't have any islands. But the deadly flooding that has deluged parts of Nebraska could get worse before it gets better.

"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," Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday.

More than 8 million people are under flood warnings in the Midwest and the Mississippi River Valley, said CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen.

"Eastern Nebraska remains the hardest hit area, with much of the southeast part of the state under flood warnings," he said.

The flooding has already killed two people in Nebraska and one man in Iowa. Ricketts said at least one person remains missing in Nebraska.

Flood records have been shattered in 17 places, and more rivers will likely break cresting records this week, according to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. (A crest is the highest point of a flood wave.)

Now the big concern is floodwater draining downstream, further deluging communities that can't take any more water.

3 deaths include a farmer trying to rescue others

Nebraskan James Wilke, a farmer in Platte County, used his tractor to try to help a person trapped in a vehicle, NEMA spokesman Mike Wight said.

"With the guidance of emergency responders, James drove his tractor over the Shell Creek bridge on the Monestary Road and the bridge gave out. James and the tractor went down into the flood water below," family friend Jodi L. Hefti wrote on Facebook.

Another Nebraska man died after he was overcome by flood waters near a dam in Spencer, Wight said.

He said one more person in Nebraska is missing and presumed dead.

In Iowa, Aleido Rojas Galan of Nebraska was one of three people rescued from floodwater, Iowa's Fremont County Sheriff's Office said. But Galan, 55, succumbed to his injuries and died at a hospital in Lincoln.

This nightmare started with a 'bomb cyclone'

The mammoth flooding follows a powerful "bomb cyclone" that slammed the central US last week with hurricane-like winds and blizzard conditions.

Melting snow ended up in rivers and streams, causing flooding and cresting days after the precipitation was over.

Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base, just south of Omaha, said about 30 buildings were hit with floodwater.

"Team Offutt has done an incredible job working together to battle this historic flood as best we can," said Col. Michael Manion, 55th Wing commander. On Sunday, he said the 55th Wing at the base was down "essential personnel manning only."

In Iowa, a mandatory evacuation order has been issued for some residents of Pacific Junction, CNN affiliate KETV reported. A county board resolution passed Sunday will establish a $750 fine for anyone who violates the evacuation or curfew orders, according to the news station.

Recovering from the damage

The Nebraska governor and Rep. Don Bacon toured shelters Sunday, talking to displaced residents and evacuees of the floods. Red Cross volunteers are working in more than a dozen shelters across eastern Nebraska and Iowa.

As the process of recovery begins, NEMA urged neighbors affected by the floods to look out for each other.

Some warning signs to look for in the aftermath, the agency said, include increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs; feelings of anxiety, disbelief or numbness; physical reactions such as headaches; and worsening of chronic health problems.