Pence heads to Midwest amid flooding concerns

Heather Hollingsworth
Associated Press
Missouri River levels are posted near a souvenir shop in Elwood, Kan., Monday, March 18, 2019. Hundreds of homes flooded in several Midwestern states after rivers breached at least a dozen levees following heavy rain and snowmelt in the region, authorities said Monday while warning that the flooding was expected to linger.

Kansas City, Mo. – Vice President Mike Pence was expected to visit the Midwest on Tuesday to view flooding caused by heavy rains and snowmelt that damaged hundreds of homes and inundated tens of thousands of acres with water.

Flooding is expected throughout the week in several states as high water levels flow down the Missouri River. Swollen rivers have already breached at least a dozen levees in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The flooding, which started after a massive late-winter storm hit the Midwest last week, has been blamed for at least three deaths.

Pence is expected to arrive late Tuesday afternoon in Omaha, Nebraska, where the president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau estimates farm and ranch losses could reach $1 billion. Steve Nelson estimates $400 million in crop losses because of crops that will be planted late, if at all. He also estimates up to $500 million in livestock losses from the floods.

The Nebraska city of Fremont was walled off by flooding, but local residents got a lift from private pilots offering free flights to shuttle people to and from their hometown.

The Missouri River is forecast to crest Thursday morning at 11.6 feet above flood stage in St. Joseph, Missouri, the third highest on record. More than 100 roads are closed in the state, where the State Highway Patrol is watching from the air and has water patrol officers on standby to help.

There are widespread evacuations in two counties, including Holt County, where about 40,000 acres (16,188 hectares) and hundreds of homes have been flooded.

“This isn’t new to them,” Highway Patrol Sgt. Jake Angle said. “But it’s no less devastating.”

River flooding has also surrounded a northern Illinois neighborhood with water, prompting residents to escape in boats. People living in the Illinois village of Roscoe say children have walked through high floodwaters or kayaked to catch school buses amid flooding along the Rock River.

Flooding along rivers in western Michigan also has damaged dozens of homes and businesses.

President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that he was staying in close contact with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem about the flooding in those states.