Floodwater pouring into the Missouri River pushed it to record levels this week, inundating Interstates 29 and 680, cutting off bridges connecting Missouri and Iowa and shuttering sewer plants and Nebraska’s nuclear plant.
Nearly a 70-mile stretch of Interstate-29 is closed from U.S. 34 south of Council Bluffs southward to Rock Port, Missouri. A short stretch of I-29 is closed from north Council Bluffs northward to Interstate 680. I-29 is open in most of Council Bluffs and it is open north of I-680.
Highway 2 is closed at the Nebraska City Missouri River bridge.
Access has been lost to at least two bridges that span the Missouri: Interstate 680 in north Omaha and U.S. Highway 34 at La Platte, which is north of Plattsmouth.
That means that between Nebraska City and Omaha there is no other access to bridges across the river. Bridges in both those cities, however, remain open.
Forecasting Missouri River levels has been difficult because the situation has changed rapidly as more rainwater and snowmelt feeds into the basin. Assessing river levels has been made more difficult by the loss of two key gauges, at Plattsmouth and Brownville.
Here’s a look at river levels:
Omaha: One of the city’s two water treatment plants had shut down Friday as the rising Missouri River overwhelmed efforts to sandbag against it. The interior of the city isn’t expected to flood because it is protected by a high flood wall and levees. (The sewer treatment plant doesn’t have that level of protection) Omaha also gains some natural protection because it sits north of Plattsmouth, where massive amounts of water from the Platte River are dumping into the Missouri River. On Friday afternoon, the river at Omaha was at nearly 32 feet and was forecast to rise about another two feet by Sunday into Monday. In the ensuing days, it is forecast to steadily drop. During the 2011 Missouri River flood, the Missouri crested at 36 feet in Omaha and the city’s levee was not breached.
Plattsmouth: Record levels were reached Thursday evening and the river was above 37 feet Friday morning, two feet above major flood stage. The river is forecast to rise another foot during the day and remain above major flood stage at least until the middle of the week. At these levels, infrastructure that floods include the city’s water wells and water treatment flood, local roads and homes and portions of Highway 34.
Nebraska City: A record was set here Thursday night and the river had reached 29.4 feet by Friday morning. It’s expected to rise a couple of more inches before dropping, perhaps as soon as this weekend. At these levels, Highway 2 floods. The river at Nebraska City has exceeded a 1 in 100 year flood.
Brownville: The gauge here has been knocked out of service. This is the gauge that indicates risk to Interstate 29 in this area. On Thursday night, when the gauge was still operating, forecasts indicated the Interstate could close as soon as Friday night.
Rulo: This is the southernmost gauge in Nebraska. The river was at about 25.4 feet Friday morning and was expected to rise at least another foot. It is forecast to approach, but perhaps not reach, the level of flooding that occurred in 2011. Among the impacts of the forecast flood levels near here is the potential for Big Lake, Missouri, to flood.
Nebraska roads submerged
Flooding has severely impacted travel in areas surrounding the Omaha metro area and in northeastern Nebraska.
Crews were closing the Elkhorn exit — 204th Street — off the West Dodge Expressway just before 10:15 a.m. Friday.
The Highway 34 bridge across the Missouri River north of Plattsmouth was closed late Friday morning due to a levee break. The road was closed from Highway 75 to the east, near the Sarpy and Cass County border.
Most state highways in north-central and northeast Nebraska also have some closures because of flooding.
Click here to see the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s live map.
In Iowa, Interstate 29 is closed and has detours in place because of flooding. I-680 between the Mormon Bridge and I-29 also is closed.