Extreme weather, flooding grip US Midwest

DES MOINES, Iowa — A house that was teetering on the edge of an eroding riverbank near a Minnesota dam collapsed into the river in the latest jarring example of extreme weather gripping the upper Midwest. 

Video shows the house owned by the Barnes family falling into the flood-swollen Blue Earth River near Mankato on Tuesday night. The dam’s west abutment failed Monday, sending the river around the dam and eroding the bank where the home sat. The family had evacuated the house before the collapse. 

“It’s been a very scary and hard situation,” Jenny Barnes, whose family has run the nearby Dam Store for decades, told KARE-TV on Tuesday before the house fell into the river. She also was worried about the store. 

“That’s our life, as well. That’s our business; that’s our livelihood. It’s everything to us,” Barnes said.  

A swath through Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota has been under siege from flooding because of torrential rains since last week, while also suffering through a scorching heat wave. Up to 46 centimeters of rain have fallen in some areas, pushing some rivers to record levels. Hundreds of people were rescued, homes were damaged and at least two people died after driving in flooded areas. 

Tornado warnings, flash flooding and large hail Tuesday night added insult to injury for some Midwesterners. The National Weather Service said several tornadoes were reported in Iowa and Nebraska. The service was assessing damage to some buildings, crops and trees to confirm whether tornadoes touched down. No major injuries were reported. 

The weather service also extended flood warnings for multiple rivers in the region. On Tuesday, floodwaters breached levees in Iowa, creating dangerous conditions that prompted evacuations. 

Preliminary information from the weather service shows the recent flooding brought record-high river levels at more than a dozen locations in South Dakota and Iowa, surpassing previous crests by an average of about (1 meter). The Big Sioux River reached nearly 12 meters in Hawarden, Iowa, on Saturday and nearly 14 meters in Sioux City, Iowa, on Monday, exceeding previous highs by 1.5 to 2.1 meters, respectively. 

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in anticipation of Missouri River flooding. 

In South Dakota, Kathy Roberts lost nearly everything she had when she escaped flooding Sunday night with her cat and the clothes on her back, KTIV-TV reported. 

“I heard screaming outside and looked outside and I had neighbors that had water rushing into their place and water was slowly rising in my driveway,” Roberts said.  

In the residential development where Roberts lived in North Sioux City, streets, utility poles and trees collapsed, and some homes were washed off their foundations. There was no water, sewer, gas or electrical service in that area, Union County Emergency Management said Tuesday in a Facebook post. 

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said in a post on the social platform X Tuesday night that people needed to stay out of the area unless escorted by public safety officials. 

“We are working on a schedule for families to get their belongings,” Noem said. “Until then, downed power lines, sinkholes, and other threats make it too dangerous to go in alone.” 

The sheriff’s office in Monona County, near the Nebraska border, said the Little Sioux River breached levees in several areas. In neighboring Woodbury County, the sheriff’s office posted drone video on Facebook showing the river overflowing the levee and flooding land in rural Smithland. No injuries were immediately reported. 

In the Sioux City, Iowa, area, water spilled over the Big Sioux River levee, damaging hundreds of homes, officials estimated. And the local wastewater treatment plant has been so overwhelmed by the floodwaters that officials say they’re having to dump about 3.8 million liters of untreated sewage per day into the Missouri River. 

As new areas were flooding this week, some cities and towns were cleaning up after the waters receded while others downstream were piling sandbags and taking other measures to protect against the oncoming swelled currents. 

Many streams, especially with additional rainfall, may not crest until later this week as the floodwaters slowly drain down a web of rivers to the Missouri and Mississippi. The Missouri will crest at Omaha on Thursday, said Kevin Low, a weather service hydrologist. 

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