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Midwest flood kills two, causes devastation amid heat wave

— More storms are forecasted for the Midwest, where severe flooding following days of heavy rains has resulted in at least two fatalities, a river surge around a dam, and numerous evacuations and rescues.

The National Weather Service has predicted severe storms for Tuesday afternoon and evening, including the possibility of large hail, damaging winds, and brief tornadoes in parts of western Iowa and eastern Nebraska. Showers and storms are also expected in parts of South Dakota and Minnesota.

This flooding coincides with an intense heat wave affecting the region. Some flooded communities were under an excessive heat warning Monday, with temperatures nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius). Similar dangerous weather is expected around the Omaha area on Tuesday.

Widespread Impact

More than 3 million people from Omaha, Nebraska, to St. Paul, Minnesota, are affected by the flooding. The National Weather Service reported that from Thursday through Saturday, up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) of rain fell south of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Even areas that received less rain are grappling with downstream water surges. Many streams, particularly with continued rainfall, are expected to crest later this week as floodwaters drain into the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. The Missouri River is forecasted to crest at Omaha on Thursday, said Kevin Low, a weather service hydrologist.

Tragic Losses and Infrastructure Damage

On Saturday, an Illinois man attempting to drive around a barricade in Spencer, Iowa, was swept away by the Little Sioux River, according to Sioux City’s KTIV-TV. His body was recovered Monday. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem also confirmed at least one fatality in the state but provided no further details.

“We’re on the highest spot in town, but what good is that when the rest of the town is flooded? It makes me nervous,” said Hank Howley, a 71-year-old resident of North Sioux City, South Dakota, who has avoided evacuation.

A railroad bridge connecting North Sioux City, South Dakota, with Sioux City, Iowa, collapsed into the Big Sioux River around 11 p.m. Sunday. BNSF Railway, which owns the bridge, had ceased operations as a precaution during the flooding. The collapse caused no injuries and is not expected to significantly impact rail traffic.

Emergency Responses

The South Dakota Department of Transportation constructed a berm across Interstate 29 on Sunday night to prevent further flooding, temporarily blocking the major route. The flooding has caused extensive damage, closing businesses, damaging roads and bridges, and leading to power outages and unsafe drinking water in various communities.

Aiden Engelkes, a resident of Spencer, Iowa, described the emotional toll of the flooding, which surpassed a record set in 1953. Engelkes, who was evacuated from his first-floor apartment, is now staying with his mother on higher ground.

Ongoing Efforts and Federal Response

In addition to the state-level response, federal efforts are underway. President Joe Biden has been briefed on the flooding, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has personnel on the ground in Iowa.

In Mankato, Minnesota, the local sheriff’s office reported a “partial failure” of the western support structure for the Rapidan Dam on the Blue Earth River due to debris accumulation. Emergency management director Eric Weller stated the bank would likely erode further but did not anticipate the concrete dam itself failing. Nearby homes have been evacuated as a precaution.

The Midwest continues to face significant challenges as communities work to recover from the devastating floods while preparing for potential additional storms.