As students around the country participated in a global strike Friday to demand action on climate change, a powerful “bomb cyclone” ripped through the Midwest, bringing extreme flooding to parts of Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The National Weather Service in Omaha issued a flash flood emergency order early Friday for areas west of Omaha after a dike on the Platte River in the town of Valley, Nebraska, failed.
“SEEK HIGHER GROUND NOW!” NWS wrote before having to evacuate its office. “This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation.”
The Platte River near Leshara swelled to a record 12.63 feet on Friday, topping the previous high of 11.84 feet set in 1996. In the town of Plattsmouth, south of Omaha, the Missouri River reached a record 37.15 feet, breaking the previous high of 36.73 feet in 2011.
Several levees reportedly failed and thousands were forced to evacuate across the state.
The flooding killed at least one person and left another missing, The Omaha World-Herald reports. Several firefighters were injured Thursday when their boat capsized during an attempted rescue near the town of Arlington, according to the paper.
As the Missouri River rose, a nuclear power plant in southeast Nebraska declared a “Notification of Unusual Event” early Friday, a precautionary low-level alert, and said it would would continue to monitor the the water level.
The Washington Post Capital Weather Gang reports that more than 10 million people across the Midwest, from Nebraska to Wisconsin, were under flood warnings Friday.
The heavy rains and flooding came after a powerful winter storm battered Colorado, Wyoming and other central states with blizzard conditions and strong winds earlier in the week. Several tornadoes touched down in Kentucky and Indiana.
The National Weather Service called it “a Great Plains cyclone of historic proportions.” Two people, a Colorado state trooper and a utility worker in Texas, were killed Wednesday in the storm, USA Today reported.
The monster low-pressure system was fueled by warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico colliding with cold air from the north. Michael Mann, climate scientist at Penn State University, told HuffPost there is evidence that climate change is increasing the conditions that support development of more intense bomb cyclones.
“Despite the antics of climate change-denying politicians … the increased snowfall amounts associated with record-strength Nor’easters (and ‘bomb cyclones’) is symptomatic of, rather than evidence against, human-caused planetary warming,” he wrote in an email.