Midwest Flooding

Climate change has left the Midwest region submerged following record spring flooding.

In March of 2019, the Midwest was inundated with the worst flooding to occur in decades in the aftermath of a powerful storm system. This devastating flooding resulted in billions of dollars in damage and the loss of three lives.

Flooding of this scale is a direct impact of the climate crisis as climate change drastically alters weather patterns and precipitation levels. As the fossil fuel industry continues to emit greenhouse gases that exacerbate the climate crisis, we can expect for widespread devastating events such as this flooding to continue. Communities across the Midwest are now left fighting to rebuild and are stuck paying the costs in their lives and livelihoods.

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The Science

In mid-March a weather event known as a ‘Bomb Cyclone’ swept through the Midwest, bringing hurricane-force winds, blizzard conditions and dumping heavy rain and record-setting snowfall. The powerful storm led some Midwest waterways such as the Missouri River to rise to record levels.

Climate change has been linked to heavier rainfall, increasing the likelihood of record-breaking flooding. The changing climate is causing the jet stream over North America to extend further south, causing freezing temperatures well below the norm and higher snowfall. The 2019 Midwest Bomb Cyclone was intensified by climate change.

The Impact

The flooding resulting from the Bomb Cyclone wreaked havoc on the Midwest. The impact to the Farm Belt was particularly brutal. With little advance warning to evacuate, many farmers were unable to move their livestock to higher ground.

Thousands of livestock were drowned or stranded in the flooding. Grain used for livestock feed and harvest’s from the previous year were submerged and ruined. Early estimates of Nebraska crop and livestock losses were around $1 billion.

Damage to infrastructure is equally appalling. Rural roads were washed out, bridges and rail lines remained submerged for days. The retaining wall of Spencer dam in Northeast Nebraska collapsed due to the high water levels from massive run-off from melted snow. Not only did the flooding cause massive physical damage, it poses a large public health risk to the region as flood waters flowed through eight Superfund sites. The total cost and economic losses from the flooding are still unknown, but estimates place the figure at a whopping $12.5 billion.

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