March 14 (UPI) — Officials in eastern Nebraska ordered about one-third of the city of Norfolk to evacuate Thursday after an ice jam broke up and threatened a flood control levee amid a powerful storm bringing heavy snow and snow to the Midwest.
The National Weather Service predicted parts of the Platte River in Colfax and Saunders counties could rise between 4 feet and 5 feet after the ice jam broke upstream. The agency warned residents who live near the river to move to higher ground.
The Lincoln Journal Star reported one person was missing after falling into a flood control levee in Norfolk.
The Nebraska State Patrol closed down a number of roads throughout the region when they were inundated by floodwaters from broken ice jams. Some roads and bridges have collapsed entirely.
Meanwhile, meteorologists issued tornado watches for eastern Arkansas, northwest Mississippi, west Tennessee and far southeastern Missouri. Severe weather is also possible in parts of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama.
Forecasters say heavy rains and melting snow could cause flooding farther north — especially in Wisconsin and Michigan. Record snowfall has the Midwest primed for spring flooding and ice jams are another threat as sheets break up and clog rivers, pushing up water levels.
In Colorado, the storm became a “bomb cyclone”, which occurs when the pressure drops by 24 millibars in a 24-hour period. Denver International Airport recorded a 30-millibar drop and Pueblo, Colo., saw pressure drop 35.6 millibars. The drop in pressure indicates the strength of the storm.
More than 1,000 motorists became stuck and stranded in “treacherous conditions” in El Paso County, Colo., Sheriff Bill Elder said and Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency, activating the national guard. About 86,000 customers in Colorado lost electricity and another 47,000 were without it in New Mexico and the Texas panhandle, officials said.
Four of the six runways at Denver International Airport had reopened by Thursday morning, but airlines still canceled more than 600 flights because of winter conditions. Nearly 1,400 flights were canceled Wednesday, including all United, Southwest and Frontier flights.
Before this morning’s sunrise, #GOESWest captured this GeoColor limb view of the powerful winter storm system that’s causing “extremely dangerous” travel conditions across the Central U.S. Learn more: https://t.co/SSx4Pd6XL6 pic.twitter.com/eEux2TYA2Y- NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) March 13, 2019