Valley, Neb., March 21 (Reuters) - As icy, lethal flood waters fed by rains and melting snow recede in Nebraska and Iowa, leaving destroyed homes, drowned cattle and swamped farmland, Midwest states downstream were set on Thursday for a relentless surge of the Missouri River.
Flooding from last week’s storm has already caused nearly $1.5 billion in damage in Nebraska, killed at least four people with another missing.
“This isn’t over,” said David Roth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.
“The river will have several more major crests through next week,” he said, not counting the numerous tributaries that feed into the Missouri up and down the Midwest and will likely inundate communities into next month.
The waters have already swamped a large swath of Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa along North America’s longest river. A state of emergency has been declared in all or parts of the three Midwestern farm states “We’re going to get some moderate rain this weekend over eastern Nebraska, maybe a half inch (1.3 cm),” Roth said. “It doesn’t sound like much, but any more precipitation is bad.”
The Missouri River’s next major flood crest is forecast to hit St. Joseph, Missouri, at 6 a.m. on Friday and a day later in Kansas City, Missouri, 55 miles (90 km) to the south, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Where the Missouri meets the Mississippi River in St. Charles (Missouri), it has already peaked but it’s going to crest again early next week,” meteorologist Roth said.
More than 2,400 Nebraska homes and businesses have been destroyed or damaged, with 200 miles (320 km) of roads unusable and 11 bridges wiped out, Governor Pete Ricketts said on Wednesday.
Ricketts estimated the floods caused at least $439 million in damage to public infrastructure and other assets, and $85 million to privately owned assets. He put flood damage for the state’s agricultural sector at nearly $1 billion.
Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, which houses the U.S. Strategic Command, remained heavily flooded but operational, officials said Wednesday.
In Valley, Nebraska, outside Omaha, Pete Smock, 42, worked to clear deep mud surrounding his home and construction business Wednesday in what will be a long cleanup for the region.
“Devastation is everywhere. I haven’t seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Smock said. (Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; additional writing and reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Jarrett Renshaw in Philadelphia, P.J. Huffstutter and Mark Weinraub in Chicago, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Andrew Hay in Taos, N.M. and Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles;)