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The Latest: Aid group seeks to help flood-damaged ranches

March 19, 2019

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Latest on flooding in the Midwest (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

A farm aid nonprofit is launching an effort to donate hay to ranchers in flood-stricken Nebraska.

North Dakota-based Farm Rescue is seeking hay donations and volunteer drivers. The Nebraska Farm Bureau says farm and ranch losses in that state could reach $1 billion.

Farm Rescue first activated its “Operation Hay Lift” program to help drought-stricken Upper Midwest ranchers in 2017. Dozens of volunteer truckers hauled hundreds of loads of hay to the region.

The nonprofit provides free physical labor for farmers and ranchers dealing with an injury, illness or a natural disaster in six Plains states. It relies on volunteers from around the country, donations and corporate sponsors.

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1:30 p.m.

A disaster declaration has been declared for nearly 70 percent of the state of Nebraska.

The state’s Emergency Management Agency said in a news release Tuesday that 65 of the state’s 93 counties are under state-issued emergency declarations.

Gov. Pete Ricketts says there have been disasters with greater loss of life. But he said he didn’t think “there’s ever been a disaster this widespread in Nebraska.”

Vice President Mike Pence is expected to arrive late Tuesday afternoon in Omaha, Nebraska, where the president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau estimates farm and ranch losses could reach $1 billion.

Floodwaters also have inundated several other Midwestern states.

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1 p.m.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says 41 of Iowa’s 99 counties are now included in her state disaster declaration after massive flooding.

Reynolds also says she plans to press Vice President Mike Pence for a federal disaster declaration when he stops in Omaha, Nebraska, to tour inundated land along the Missouri River.

Reynolds and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts are scheduled to accompany Pence for a Tuesday afternoon tour. Reynolds says her hope is to access federal funding sooner rather than later.

She says some hog confinement operations in the southwest part of the state are under water with dead animals inside, and grain bins filled with corn and soybeans have been destroyed. She says some farm fields look like lakes just weeks away from spring planting, which will have significant impact on the upcoming growing season.

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12:10 p.m.

Floodwaters are washing away roads, making some communities unreachable and forcing drivers to make time-consuming detours in parts of the Midwest.

Flooding has closed more than 100 roads in Missouri. And 70 miles (112.6 kilometers) of Interstate 29 is closed from St. Joseph to the Iowa border, complicating efforts to access the Cooper Nuclear Station along the Missouri River in Nebraska.

Some plant workers travel from Atchison County, Missouri, where a levee breach grew larger overnight. The county’s emergency management says so many roads are closed in the region that residents are traveling more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) out of their way to get to the plant.

The flooding is due to melting snow and heavy rains that hit the region last week.

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10:25 a.m.

Authorities say river flooding has surrounded a northern Illinois neighborhood with water, prompting residents to escape in boats.

The National Weather Service says the flooding is due to melting snow and recent heavy rains that recently hit the Midwest.

People living in the Illinois village of Roscoe say children have walked through high floodwaters or kayaked to catch school buses amid flooding along the Rock River.

About 40 miles (64 kilometers) away in Freeport, authorities say rescue workers have helped more than 170 people evacuate their homes since Saturday due to flooding along the Pecatonica River. The river is at its highest level since 1933.

Flooding along rivers in western Michigan also has damaged dozens of homes and businesses.

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10 a.m.

The president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau says farm and ranch losses due to the devastating flooding could reach $1 billion in the state.

Steve Nelson estimates $400 million in crop losses because of crops that will be planted late, if at all. He also estimates as much as $500 million in livestock losses as Nebraska and other Midwestern states struggle with swollen rivers and breached levees following heavy rain and snowmelt.

Nelson tells the Omaha World-Herald that he wouldn’t be surprised if “lost agriculture numbers go over a billion dollars.”

Agriculture amounts to 20 percent of Nebraska’s gross domestic product and provides one of every four jobs in the state.

Nelson says flooding is costing the state’s cattle industry $1 million a day in costs usually not covered by insurance.

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9:20 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is headed to the Midwest to view flood damage as farmers raise concerns that busted levees won’t be fixed before the traditional spring flood season.

Pence is scheduled to visit Omaha, Nebraska, late Tuesday afternoon. Hundreds of homes are damaged, and tens of thousands of acres are inundated with water.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says rivers breached at least a dozen levees in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. Flooding is expected through the week as high water levels flow down the Missouri River.

Corps official Jud Kneuvean says levees usually take six months to repair. That means most likely won’t be fixed by mid-May, the start of the most flood-prone part of the year.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau says farm and ranch losses could reach $1 billion in Nebraska alone.

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Check out the AP’s complete story on flooding.