Much of the Midwest is dealing with catastrophic flooding this week along the Missouri and Mississippi river basins, the result of a hurricane-like winter storm called a “bomb cyclone” that dropped huge amounts of rain, melted existing snow and caused torrents of water to wash nearly unimpeded across the frozen ground.

The worst flooding has been in Nebraska and Iowa, but parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota and bordering states were also affected and may have to contend with more flooding this week. Several people have died, and hundreds more have been driven from their homes. Access to some places has been completely cut off by high water.


This false-color satellite image from March 15 shows snow cover to the west and flooding along the Missouri River in the very dark areas. Compared to the same area last May, the swollen tributaries of the Mississippi River are apparent. The reddish areas are vegetation, and the white areas are snow.


Swollen tributaries of the Mississippi River appear dark in this false color image from the ESA Sentinel satellite.

On March 14, Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River gave way and an 11-foot wall of water rushed through. A hydroelectric plant just downstream was destroyed when the dam broke and an ice floe rammed the building.


False-color images of Omaha show the swollen Platt and Missouri rivers, compared to the same area in February.

About one third of Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha was underwater as of March 17, including 3,000 feet of the base’s 11,700-foot runway. At least 30 buildings were damaged, according to Air Force Times. The 55th Wing headquarters and two aircraft maintenance facilities were inundated by up to eight feet of water. U.S. Strategic Command headquarters sits at higher elevation and was not affected.

Images from DigitalGlobe show the extent of the flooding.


Offutt Air Base, near Omaha sits on the banks of the Missouri River. This before and after image from Digital Globe shows the extent of floodwaters. (Satellite image ©2019 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company.)

Just south of the air base, the town of La Platte was inundated.


Images from DigitalGlobe show flooding near La Platte, Neb. (Satellite image ©2019 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company.)

On the other side of the Missouri River in western Iowa, the entire town of Pacific Junction was evacuated.


Satellite imagery via DigitalGlobe shows the flooding extent near Pacific Junction, Iowa. (Satellite image ©2019 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company.)