Thousands evacuate in deadly US floods

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Nebraska DOT

Thawing snowpack and heavy rains have brought historically high flooding to several Midwestern states and have led to thousands of evacuations.

Two people have died, including one man who officials say was trying to rescue strangers from freezing flood waters.

Record-breaking flooding in at least five states has led to emergency declarations. Several communities have been cut off from outside help.

It follows a “bomb cyclone” winter storm that slammed the US last week.

A hurricane-like weather phenomenon that scientists call a “bomb cyclone” hit the western Rocky Mountains and US Central Plains last week, showering snow and freezing rains on millions of Americans in Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota.

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Frozen chunks of river ice are causing “ice jams” along roadways and towns.

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In a statement, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers explained that “warm temperatures and rain the last few days have caused much of the heavy snowpack and ice to melt resulting in flooding, ice jams, and rivers and creeks to rise”.

The Missouri River has reached record high levels in several locations, including in Iowa and Nebraska which have been hit hardest by the flooding.

Residents in the towns of Bartlett and Thurman were ordered to evacuate on Sunday as levees were breached.

Two men in Nebraska have been killed, and two others have been missing for days.

Aleido Rojas Galan, 52, was swept away in a vehicle in southwestern Iowa on Friday while 50-year-old James Wilke was killed in Nebraska when a bridge collapsed as he tried to help motorists. Two other men remain missing.

Fremont County Emergency Management Director Mike Crecelius told the Associated Press that it was not just the amount of water breaching levees and riverbanks, but also the swiftness of it that has been creating a dangerous hazard.

“This wasn’t a gradual rise,” Mr Crecelius said. “It’s flowing fast and it’s open country – there’s nothing there to slow it down.”

On Friday, the Cooper Nuclear Station, a power plant in southern Nebraska, declared an “unusual event” had occurred as the swollen Missouri River threatened the facility.

The notice led to concerns of a meltdown only 60 miles (100km) south of Omaha.

But by Monday the plant continued to operate at normal capacity after workers filled sandbags along the river levee.

The river runoff follows heavy snows in the Rocky Mountains, including in the state of Colorado which has been experiencing a unusual number of avalanches due to “bomb cyclone” conditions.

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Media captionWhy is Colorado having so many avalanches?

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