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Brief Overview: (** refer to the "Detailed Recap" tab below for a much more extensive narrative about this event **)

Radar loop from approximately 3 PM March 12th to 7 PM March 14th shows the multiple rounds of rain, followed by a band of snow with blizzard conditions.


During a multiple-day stretch centered from March 13-23, 2019 (but peaking in severity March 13th-17th), several Nebraska counties mainly along/north of Interstate 80 within the NWS Hastings coverage area endured widespread flooding, ranging in scope from minor/moderate to historical/catastrophic (the likes of which had not been observed in several decades). By far the worst flooding occurred along several primary rivers, including the Loup River system (including North and South branches), Cedar River and Wood River (among others, see record crest information below). Not only was this flooding characterized by high water levels (as is the case with all floods), but in many areas damage was also augmented by an unusually-severe break-up of thick river ice. Taking a back seat to the widespread flooding in terms of impacts/severity, much of the local area also endured a winter storm with high winds and blizzard conditions on the night of the 13th into the morning of the 14th. Please Note: Major and historic flooding also occurred across parts of north central and eastern Nebraska...please refer to information from NWS North Platte and NWS Omaha/Valley for more details regarding what occurred in these areas. 


Breaking down the chain-of-events that set the stage for disastrous flooding, one might call it a rare, "perfect storm" of several, interrelated factors: 

  1. A prolonged stretch of unusually-cold weather centered from mid-February through mid-March. In fact, several official weather stations (including the Tri Cities airports) recorded either their 2nd or 3rd-coldest period on record between Feb. 15-March 15th, and the coldest since at least the early-1960s. 
     
  2. Because of this extreme cold, river ice became very thick, setting the stage for potentially serious ice jam flooding issues,  if the ice were to rapidly break up (which ended up happening). 
     
  3. Also because of the extreme cold, soil frost levels became unusually deep by early-mid March standards. At the NWS Hastings office, an observation on March 11 revealed that the ground was frozen to a depth of 25". 
     
  4. Several snow events in February and early March resulted in a persistent and fairly deep snow pack, especially within counties north of Interstate 80. On the morning of March 11, snow depths as high as 8-13" were common in several counties such as: Valley/Greeley/Nance/Polk. 
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  5. Because of factors #1-4 above, the widespread 2-3+ inches of rain/snow liquid equivalent that fell across much of central/south central Nebraska from March 12-14 was the proverbial "last straw". Because of the frozen ground, the vast majority of this precipitation quickly ran off into streams and rivers, not only promoting quick rises in water levels, but also resulting in a dramatic break-up of river ice into large chunks. In addition, the rain and milder temperatures quickly melted the existing snow pack, only adding more unwelcomed-water into the equation. 


Please refer to the more-detailed narrative included in the tabs below for MUCH MORE info, but here is just a quick sample of notable/significant impacts from this event:

  • On the night of the 13th into the early morning of the 14th, multiple water rescues occurred within the area, including for occupants of two cars swept into the Wood River near Kearney (one woman waited for rescue from the roof of her car). 
     
  • During the early morning of the 14th, the Loup Power Canal intake was overtopped by flood waters near Genoa, with a few bridges in the area washed out. 
     
  • Flooding along the Middle Loup River near Rockville deposited slabs of ice up to the size of pickup trucks onto Highway 68 (these large ice chunks were common in other areas as well). 
     
  • Thousands of homes/businesses suffered flood damage, including within the following communities: Dannebrog, Gibbon, Wood River and Alda. In Dannebrog, 90% of the town was evacuated as water got as deep as 5-6 feet in some places. 
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