The Latest: Flooding prompts Missouri River traffic shutdown
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Latest on a powerful storm system moving through the Midwest (all times local):
The U.S. Coast Guard says all traffic on the Missouri River from about 50 miles south of Omaha, Nebraska, downstream to St. Joseph, Missouri, has been shut down due to the river’s high water levels.
The order came Friday. The Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also requested all river vessel operators create as little wake as possible between St. Joseph downstream to Kansas City to minimize levee damage.
Officials say the restrictions will be lifted as soon as flooding conditions improve.
The restrictions come as the river reached moderate flood stage at nearly 32 feet on Friday at Omaha, where it’s expected to crest at nearly 34 feet on Monday, according to the National Weather Service. The river is expected to crest at St. Joseph on Tuesday at just over 30 feet. Major flood stage at St. Joseph is 27 feet.
A massive later-winter storm that dropped heavy snow and rain in the Upper Midwest has increased flood worries in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota.
The National Weather Service says “significant” snowmelt flooding is likely this spring. The chance the river will reach major flood stage in Fargo, North Dakota, has increased from 50 percent last week to 90 percent now.
The neighboring cities of Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota, experienced a record flood 10 years ago. The two cities have taken several measures such as home buyouts and levees since then.
The river crested at about 41 feet in 2009. The latest outlook says there’s less than a 10 percent chance of that happening this year. But moderate to major flooding is still expected throughout the basin.
Officials in eastern Nebraska are still evacuating communities around rivers that are spilling their banks in the wake of heavy rains and massive snow melt.
Sarpy County officials urged all residents directly along the Platte and Missouri rivers to evacuate Friday morning as water levels continued to rise. The Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office says the Missouri River levee has been breached south of Bellevue.
Officials also ordered the evacuation Friday morning of Villa Springs, a small lake community near the Platte River and Springfield, just southeast of Omaha.
The city of Valley, just west of Omaha, was put on alert Friday to be ready to evacuate should the Elkhorn River rise more.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is increasing releases from a dam along the Missouri River in southeastern South Dakota as flooding escalates across the region due to a massive late-winter storm.
The Corps says there is little storage capacity behind the Gavins Point Dam for runoff. That prompted the releases, which could worsen flooding downstream.
But the agency says it’s helping with levee monitoring and other flood response measures.
Releases from the Fort Randall Dam upstream have been stopped to create more capacity behind Gavins Point. No releases from Fort Randall are expected for several days.
The Corps also is working with the National Weather Service to monitor conditions. The weather service has issued flood warnings along the Missouri River and its tributaries from southeastern South Dakota to St. Louis in Missouri.
Snow-swept interstates in the Upper Midwest are slowly starting to reopen following a massive late-winter storm that has also caused flooding in several states.
Interstate 29 between Fargo and the Canadian border in eastern North Dakota is now open to travel. KFGO radio reports that a snow plow driver cleared a path on Interstate 94 in southeastern North Dakota on Thursday for an ambulance that needed to get a patient to a hospital.
State government in South Dakota is also returning to normal as travel conditions improve. Most offices have been closed for the last two days because of bad weather and treacherous travel conditions.
Heavy rain falling atop deeply frozen ground has prompted evacuations along swollen rivers in Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa. Meteorologists say the flooding is likely to persist into the weekend in states where frozen ground is preventing rain and snowmelt from soaking into the soil.
Snow, rain and powerful winds are sweeping across the Upper Midwest.
No travel is advised Friday morning in areas near Fargo, North Dakota, as heavy snow and poor visibility prompted the closure of two interstates.
In South Dakota, schools in Rapid City are closed as authorities dig out from a blizzard. Flooding on the other side of the state prompted officials in Sioux Falls to go door-to-door and evacuate residents from homes.
Flooding has also made several highways in Wisconsin unpassable. In Fond du Lac, rescuers had to move residents to higher ground after flooding on the Fond du Lac River.
Authorities say a tornado swept through mid-Michigan, damaging homes and knocking out power to thousands late Thursday. State police said first-responders say at least 21 homes were damaged, though no injuries have been reported.
A late-winter storm system continues its trek across the Midwest. It will send rain and snow into Minnesota and Illinois on Friday.
The storm left quickly rising floods in its wake in parts of eastern Nebraska and Iowa that saw residents evacuated from their homes, roads washed out in communities, and farmers worried all the water would drown livestock.
The National Weather Service says the system is expected to move into southern Minnesota and parts of Illinois, including Chicago, on Friday, with rain later turning to snow. But meteorologist Paul Fajman in Omaha says the effects aren’t expected to be as bad as what was seen farther west and south.
A blizzard crippled parts of Wyoming, Colorado and western Nebraska on Wednesday.