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The Latest: Nebraska officials threaten tickets for oglers

March 16, 2019

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

4:45 p.m.

Officials in the Omaha, Nebraska, area have had enough of rubberneckers maneuvering around road barricades to get a closer look at flooding.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has announced it will ticket anyone seen driving around barricades on closed roads in flooded areas of Valley and Waterloo, just west of Omaha.

Sheriff’s Capt. Wayne Hudson says a person who drove around a barricade Saturday morning trying to get a closer look found himself in trouble when his truck stalled in high water. Hudson says rescuers then had to divert efforts from others to help him.

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4:30 p.m.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and U.S. Sen. John Thune have surveyed flood damage in Sioux Falls.

Mayor Paul TenHaken and other city leaders took Noem and Thune on a tour of Sioux Falls on Saturday. The city was drenched in heavy rains earlier in the week as a powerful storm battered the central U.S.

Thune praised neighbors for helping others “get back up on their feet” and says that “speaks volumes to the caliber of people we have in South Dakota.”

TenHaken says cleanup continues and a few roads remain closed. The Argus Leader reports the mayor expects Sioux Falls’ bike trail to be “closed for a while.”

On Friday, Noem signed an emergency declaration, allowing counties access to state funds to recover from the winter storms and flooding.

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4 p.m.

A man rescued from his stalled and flooded vehicle in western Iowa has been flown to a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.

Omaha television station KETV reports the man called for help shortly before 7 a.m. Saturday and told emergency dispatchers he was stranded in a truck that was taking on water in Pacific Junction. Officials say it was almost an hour before rescue crews could reach him. He was flown to Nebraska Medicine around 8 a.m.

His name and medical condition have not been released.

Authorities urged people to stay off the roads near rivers and creeks and warned motorists not to drive onto water-covered roads.

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2:25 p.m.

Some homes are flooding in northern Illinois as waters rise on the Pecatonica and Rock rivers.

The National Weather Service on Saturday said record crests are possible along both rivers.

Many rivers and creeks in the Midwest are at record levels after days of snow and rain. In Nebraska and Iowa, people are being told to evacuate some areas after floodwaters broke through or overtopped levees. Some roads have also been closed, including a section of Interstate 29 in Iowa.

In Illinois, the (Freeport) Journal-Standard reports that the American Red Cross opened a shelter Friday night for those displaced by flooding in Rockford. Freeport resident Mary Martin says that within an hour of going to the store she couldn’t get back in her driveway. She says “that’s how fast the water was coming up” from the Pecatonica River.

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2 p.m.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued in rural areas of Mills County in southwestern Iowa as the Missouri River overtopped levees there.

Mills County Emergency Management officials issued the order Saturday, noting the river wasn’t done rising.

Residents in the evacuation area are required to leave as soon as possible but no later than 4 p.m. Saturday.

An emergency shelter has been established north of the area at Salem United Methodist Church in Council Bluffs.

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1:30 p.m.

Travel in western Iowa is still hampered by flooding, and officials there and in eastern Nebraska are urging people not to drive if they don’t need to.

The Iowa Department of Transportation’s website says northbound Interstate 29 from the Missouri state line to about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north near the Pacific Junction exit remains closed due to flooding. Drivers on I-29 are being rerouted onto Interstate 35 in Kansas City, Missouri, north to Des Moines, Iowa, then over I-80 back to I-29 at Council Bluffs.

The detour takes drivers almost 140 miles (225 kilometers) out of the way.

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12:30 p.m.

Nebraska authorities are issuing a mandatory evacuation for some neighborhoods after a levee along the Platte River in the city of Fremont.

Officials ordered residents in certain areas to leave their homes as floodwater rushed in.

Trinity Lutheran and Salem Lutheran churches in Fremont have been opened as shelters.

Crews in parts of Nebraska are using boats to rescue people in floodwaters. The flooding happened after a deluge of recent rainwater and snowmelt was sent pouring over frozen ground, overwhelming creeks and rivers.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by reports of levee breaches and washouts of bridges and roads, including part of Nebraska Highway 92 leading in and out of southwest Omaha. Authorities also confirmed that a bridge on that highway that crosses the Elkhorn River had been washed.

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11:35 a.m.

Rescue and evacuation efforts have been continuing in many areas of eastern Nebraska, where a deluge of recent rainwater and snowmelt was sent pouring over frozen ground, overwhelming creeks and rivers.

Efforts overnight and into Saturday were hampered by reports of levee breaches and washouts of bridges and roads, including part of Highway 92 leading in and out of southwest Omaha. Authorities also confirmed Saturday that a bridge on that highway that crosses the Elkhorn River had been washed out Saturday.

The towns of North Bend and a large portion of Columbus were submerged Friday. Emergency workers used boats to evacuate residents.

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10:45 a.m.

The National Weather Service says recent heavy rains paired with rising temperatures melting snow are causing flooding in the Midwest.

Weather service meteorologist Brian Pierce in Davenport, Iowa, says moderate flooding Saturday along the Mississippi River is just the beginning. Pierce calls it the “dress rehearsal for the main event that’s going to happen in early April.” He says there’s snow in Minnesota and Wisconsin that’s yet to melt.

Pierce says when it does there will be another round of flooding in those states that will then move south along the Mississippi River into Illinois and Iowa.

The Mississippi River recorded moderate flooding Saturday from Rock Island, Illinois, south to Burlington, Iowa.

Flooding is also occurring along other rivers and creeks in the Midwest. In eastern Nebraska, at least one person is dead and two others are missing.

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10:15 a.m.

At least one person has died and at least two others are missing in floodwaters that have swamped towns and farmland, washed out roads and bridges and drowned livestock in Nebraska in the wake of a late-winter storm that overwhelmed rivers and creeks with rain and snowmelt.

The family of 50-year-old James Wilke, of Columbus, Nebraska, says he was driving his tractor to rescue stranded motorists on a county road cut off by flooding Thursday when a bridge he was crossing collapsed. His cousin, Paul Wilke, told the Columbus Telegram that James Wilke’s body was found downstream. Gass Haney Funeral Home confirmed James Wilke’s death.

Officials in other parts of Nebraska say a Norfolk man was seen on top of his flooded car late Thursday before being swept away in the water and another man is missing after being swept away by waters when a dam collapsed on the Niobrara River.