As rivers swell and levees break apart, a huge swath of the country is experiencing unprecedented flooding in the Midwest and Great Plains. The combined effect of lingering snow from a blizzard and heavy rains made for a devastating effect in the Missouri River basin.
The regional outlook doesn’t look rosy either. “This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities,” said Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Weather Center.
States like Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and South Dakota have witnessed inundated towns, farm fields and infrastructure. Nebraska has been particularly hard hit, with disaster costs estimated to reach $1.3 billion. Since much of the Midwestern areas flooded are rural, high losses for farms are expected in the form of dead livestock, unplanted crops on over-saturated fields and grain stores now rendered unusable. Add this to the high tariffs farmers must cope with in the Trump administration trade war, and their path forward is bleak. Risk of polluted water supplies spiked just as numerous water treatment plants failed, adding to the overall infrastructure problems.
Record winter precipitation in 2019 makes a potentially wet Spring a major concern, and raises alarms for the region as it must plan for a future where climate change increases the likelihood of heavier precipitation.