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Storms, Heavy Rains Bring More Mississippi Basin Flooding, Tornadoes, Hail in Ohio and Nebraska

May 28, 2019 (EIRNS)—Recent heavy rains in the Midwest have worsened the already severe flooding in the Missouri-Mississippi River systems. Storm patterns have also produced tornadoes in Oklahoma and Ohio over the past 36 hours, and last week in Missouri. The Dayton, Ohio area was hit hard: As of early this morning, 5 million people in Ohio were without electricity; 50,000 remain out as of 9:30 EDT this evening. A storm that raked a 300-mile pathway last night and today showed parts of Nebraska with up to four inches of hail stones.

The National Weather Service now forecasts that flooding on the mid-Mississippi River at St. Louis on June 4 will reach the second-highest level in modern times, at 14 feet above flood stage, exceeded only by the Great Flood of 1993. Two Mississippi River bridges are now closed because of treacherous high water. The Champ Clark Bridge at Louisiana, Missouri shut last night; the Quincy Memorial Bridge closed early this morning at the town of Quincy.

Navigation is extremely disrupted, affecting fertilizer and chemical shipments going north, and grain going south. On May 23, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers were closed near St. Louis to “all vessel traffic due to extremely high water levels and fast-moving currents.” This is the second time this year. Downriver, in Louisiana, the Army Corps of Engineers opened the big Bonnet Carré Spillway, a standby structure (concrete weir and six-mile-long channel), seldom used since it opened in 1931, but activated twice already this year. It channels Mississippi overflow into Lake Pontchartrain, and thence to the Gulf of Mexico.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson activated the National Guard yesterday. In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly declared a state of disaster in 49 of the 105 counties, and is requesting Federal aid for shelters and emergency logistics.

On May 24, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared his whole state a disaster area, as the Arkansas River and tributaries overflowed. Two barges broke their moorings; one rammed into a dam. This afternoon, two levees were topped, according to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. The power company Entergy is systematically “de-energizing” parts of its grid, in anticipation of electrical equipment being submerged in the floodwaters.

In Oklahoma, the Arkansas River flooding is putting Tulsa in under extreme threat. Today, a military helicopter is dropping giant sandbags on a levee in Tulsa, to keep it from breaching. There are evacuations and shelters set up at points throughout the river systems.

This kind of flooding is automatically an agriculture disaster. All the farm states from the Dakotas south to Louisiana are affected. As of Memorial Day, evacuations were underway in parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. This is the heart of the farm belt. Iowa and Illinois alone account for 25% of all U.S. soybean output. There are extreme delays in planting and in the emergence of what has been seeded.

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