Flooding will continue into next week in storm-ravaged Midwest

March 20 (Reuters) - The flooding that devastated the U.S. Midwest is likely to last into next week, as rain and melted snow flow into Kansas, Missouri and Mississippi, the National Weather Service said. Floods driven by melting snow in the Dakotas will persist even as Nebraska and Iowa dig out from storms that have killed four people, left one missing and caused more than a billion dollars in damage to crops, livestock and roads.

"It's already not looking good downstream for the middle and lower Mississippi and Missouri (rivers) into Kansas, Mississippi and Missouri," Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the NWS's Weather Prediction Center, said early Wednesday.

The floodwaters have inundated a swath of Iowa and Nebraska along the Missouri River, North America's longest river. Half of Iowa's 99 counties have declared states of emergency.

"That snow pack is still there and it's going to keep melting, and that's bad news," Oravec said.

About an inch of rain is predicted for Saturday in the region, Oravec said. "It's not a lot, but any precipitation is bad right now."

Vice President Mike Pence toured some of Nebraska Tuesday and promised to help expedite federal help to the region.

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Flooding in the Midwest
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Flooding in the Midwest
Gabe Schmidt, owner of Liquid Trucking, back right, travels by air boat with Glenn Wyles, top left, Mitch Snyder, bottom right, and Juan Jacobo, bottom left, as they survey damage from the flood waters of the Platte River, in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17, 2019. Hundreds of people remained out of their homes in Nebraska, but rivers there were starting to recede. The National Weather Service said the Elkhorn River remained at major flood stage but was dropping. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
An orange windsock is seen at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Neb., site of the bases' flooded runway, Sunday, March 17, 2019. Rising waters from the Missouri River flooded about a third of the base, including about 3,000 feet of the base's 11,700-foot runway. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
A BNSF train sits in flood waters from the Platte River, in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17, 2019. Hundreds of people remained out of their homes in Nebraska, but rivers there were starting to recede. The National Weather Service said the Elkhorn River remained at major flood stage but was dropping. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Gabe Schmidt, owner of Liquid Trucking, right, talks to Glenn Wyles, second right, as they survey by air boat flood damage from the flood waters of the Platte River, in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17, 2019. Hundreds of people remained out of their homes in Nebraska, but rivers there were starting to recede. The National Weather Service said the Elkhorn River remained at major flood stage but was dropping. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Gabe Schmidt, owner of Liquid Trucking, top right, travels by air boat with Glenn Wyles, top left, Mitch Snyder, bottom left, and Juan Jacobo, bottom right, as they survey damage from the flood waters of the Platte River, in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17, 2019. Hundreds of people remained out of their homes in Nebraska, but rivers there were starting to recede. The National Weather Service said the Elkhorn River remained at major flood stage but was dropping. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Vice President Mike Pence and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, second right point to flooded areas, with Neb. Gov. Pete Ricketts, left, during a helicopter flight over areas affected by the flooding of the Missouri and Elkhorn Rivers, Tuesday, March 19, 2019, in Nebraska. Pence flew to Omaha, Neb., Tuesday to view damage and to offer support to first responders, volunteers and those displaced by the floods. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Vice President Mike Pence, center, flies by helicopter over areas flooded by the Missouri and Elkhorn rivers, with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, right, and Neb. Gov. Pete Ricketts, left, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
This Tuesday, March 19, 2019 aerial photo shows flooding along the Missouri River in Pacific Junction, Iowa. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says rivers breached at least a dozen levees in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. Hundreds of homes are damaged, and tens of thousands of acres are inundated with water. (DroneBase via AP)
Akashi Haynes, left, and her daughter Tabitha Viers carry their belongings rescued from their flooded home in Fremont, Neb., Monday, March 18, 2019. Authorities say flooding from the Platte River and other waterways is so bad that just one highway lane into Fremont remains uncovered, and access to that road is severely restricted. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
A BNSF train sits in flood waters from the Platte River, in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17, 2019. Hundreds of people remained out of their homes in Nebraska, but rivers there were starting to recede. The National Weather Service said the Elkhorn River remained at major flood stage but was dropping. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Cars sit in flood waters from the Platte River alongside a BNSF train, in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17, 2019. Hundreds of people remained out of their homes in Nebraska, but rivers there were starting to recede. The National Weather Service said the Elkhorn River remained at major flood stage but was dropping. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Flooded RV's, washed away by the flood waters of the Platte River, are seen in Merritt's RV Park in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17, 2019. Hundreds of people remained out of their homes in Nebraska, but rivers there were starting to recede. The National Weather Service said the Elkhorn River remained at major flood stage but was dropping. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
RETRANSMISSION TO CORRECT SURNAME - Tom Wilke, center, his son Chad, right, and Nick Kenny, load a boat out of the swollen waters of the North Fork of the Elkhorn River after checking on the Witke's flooded property, in Norfolk, Neb., Friday, March 15, 2019. Heavy rain falling atop deeply frozen ground has prompted evacuations along swollen rivers in Wisconsin, Nebraska and other Midwestern states. Thousands of people have been urged to evacuate along eastern Nebraska rivers as a massive late-winter storm has pushed streams and rivers out of their banks throughout the Midwest. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin and Mississippi all declared states of emergency after the floods, which stemmed from a powerful winter hurricane last week. The flooding killed livestock, destroyed grains and soybeans in storage and cut off access to farms because of road and rail damage.

Authorities said they had rescued nearly 300 people in Nebraska alone, with some rivers continuing to rise. Rescuers could be seen in boats pulling pets from flooded homes. Some roadways crumbled to rubble and sections of others were submerged. In Hamburg, Iowa, floodwaters covered buildings.

$1 BILLION IN DAMAGE

Nebraska officials estimated flood damage for the state's agriculture at more than $1 billion so far, according to Craig Head, vice president of issue management at the Nebraska Farm Bureau. Head said that was likely to grow as floodwaters recede.

"It's really too early to know for sure how bad this is going to get. But one thing we do know: It's catastrophic for farmers," said Matt Perdue, government relations director for the National Farmers Union. "We’re hoping it's only $1 billion, but that's only a hope."

Nebraska officials estimate the floods have also caused $553 million in damage to public infrastructure and other assets, and $89 million to privately owned assets, according to the state's Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday.

The water covered about a third of Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska, home to the U.S. Strategic Command, whose responsibilities include defending against and responding to nuclear attacks.

The Army Corps of Engineers is distributing 400,000 sandbags to operators of 12 levees along the Missouri River in Missouri and Kansas that are threatened by flooding, the Army Corps said in a news release on Tuesday.

Roads leading to the Nebraska Public Power District's Cooper nuclear plant near Brownville were engulfed by floodwaters from the Missouri, but the facility was still operating safely at full power on Tuesday.

The plant operator was flying staff members and supplies to the plant by helicopter, power district spokesman Mark Becker said.

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