A massive deluge of rain and melting snow from a “bomb cyclone” and other recent storms is inundating several Midwestern states including Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
The flooding has killed at least three people and caused at least $3 billion in damages so far. Rising water levels have breached levees along the Missouri River and forced several towns to evacuate. In southern Minnesota, flood impacts are expected increase substantially for the next three days, according to MPR News. In Nebraska alone, the flooding has already caused more than $1 billion in damages, with more than 2,000 homes and 340 businesses lost.
None of this is supposed to be under water.
Here’s what the Missouri River looks like just across from Nebraska City into Iowa. If you ever drive to Kansas City, you’re probably familiar with this interchange of I-29 and Highway 2. The Missouri looks like an ocean.#NSP575 pic.twitter.com/kwkkAs5fha
— NEStatePatrol (@NEStatePatrol) March 21, 2019
But on Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s spring outlook reported that the situation for the central US is soon going to get much, much worse.
“The extensive flooding we’ve seen in the past two weeks will continue through May and become more dire and may be exacerbated in the coming weeks as the water flows downstream,” said Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in a statement. “This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities.”
Waterways including the Mississippi River and the Red River of the North are already soaked with precipitation levels that are 200 percent above normal. Alongside rapid snowmelt, heavy spring rains and ice jams have led to a massive, destructive rise in water levels.
“It is possible that many parts of the Mississippi River will remain above flood stage … into the first part of the summer in the slow-moving natural disaster,” AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski told USA Today.
More frequent and severe flooding resulting from massive rainfall is one of the more devastating consequences of climate change. As average temperatures rise, air warms and holds on to more moisture, roughly 7 percent more water for every degree Celsius increase. We’ve already seen the amount of rain dished out from major storms increase over the past century.