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At least 2 dead as devastating Midwest flooding triggers evacuations

Flooding in the Midwest has caused severe damage, collapsing a bridge, weakening a dam and forcing the evacuation of a town.

Nearly 3 million people in Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska have been affected.

In the border area of Iowa and South Dakota, devastation from the record flooding was “severe and widespread,” according to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. At least one person in Iowa and one person in South Dakota have died. 

“Flooding impacts will continue” in parts of Iowa and South Dakota, “but the chance for additional rainfall in the next 2 to 3 days is low,” the National Weather Service said in an update Monday afternoon.

Iowa

In Clay County, Iowa, the sheriff’s office confirmed one person drowned over the weekend as a result of the floods.

Spencer — a city of more than 11,000 people and the county seat of Clay County — was cut off from the rest of the state by floodwater. Hundreds were evacuated to shelters, and 383 rescues have been made, Spencer Fire Chief Jesse Coulson said.

Nate Gastelum, 20, said he was at home with his roommate in Spencer when they realized they needed to flee.

“We started at the street and then we ended up at the back of the house because we had to keep backing up,” Gastelum said. “There was just, like, an eerie feeling, and me and my roommate were like, ‘Yeah, we need to go.’”

Gastelum said his basement was flooded and his house would not be habitable for a while.

“But that’s nothing compared to what happened to other people around us,” he said. “In the south side of town, those houses are almost completely destroyed.”

Gastelum described collapsed houses throughout town, cars submerged or floating through the streets and mass power outages. People trapped in their homes have had to jump from upper stories onto boats to flee, Gastelum said.

Still, he said, the city has come together to help those most affected.

“The best thing about this town is that everybody that wasn’t greatly impacted is opening their doors to as many people as they can fit,” he said. “Like my mom, she has taken in 11 people and a couple of dogs because their house got completely destroyed.”

“I had my truck, and I was helping families get to safe zones in my truck bed,” Gastelum said.

Reynolds visited several areas in northwest Iowa on Monday. She issued a disaster proclamation for one county and an emergency proclamation for five others.

“In almost every community impacted, the river crested several feet above record levels from the flood of 1993,” Reynolds said Sunday at a news conference.

The Sioux City fire marshal called the flooding “unprecedented,” saying it is difficult to predict what’s next given the area’s lack of experience with devastation of this scale.

“Nobody has experienced this level of rainfall and this much water at one time,” Fire Marshal Mark Aesoph said, noting that the evacuation area will continue to grow as the water continues to rise within a temporary levee built to control the flooding.

A flood warning remains in effect in parts of northwest Iowa until 1 p.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

A view on Monday of a railroad bridge that used to connect North Sioux City, S.D., with Sioux City, Iowa, which collapsed into the Big Sioux River because of heavy rain and flooding Sunday.KTIV

South Dakota

A railroad bridge connecting Sioux City, Iowa, to North Sioux City, South Dakota, collapsed Sunday night and fell into the Big Sioux River. 

One person died in South Dakota after having driven a utility task vehicle that rolled down an embankment created by a washed-out roadway, according to the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

Gov. Kristi Noem urged people to consider their safety and that of their families as of “utmost importance,” reminding them to stay out of floodwaters.

“Throughout this entire incident, we did have one loss of life,” Noem said. “And so the perspective of how dangerous this is is becoming very real for that family.”

Noem warned that the next days would be “tough” and that the impact of the flood’s destruction on the state would be felt for months to come.

“In case we needed any reminder of the destructive nature of water,” Noem said Monday at a news conference, “we are seeing it in real time today.”

Southeast South Dakota remains under a flood warning until 1 p.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Minnesota

In south-central Minnesota, a dam near Rapidan faces “imminent failure” because of structural damage caused by the floods. Still, it remains functional for the time being, and local authorities say there is no plan for a “mass evacuation” as they continue to monitor the situation.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning until 10:30 a.m. Tuesday for areas downstream of the Rapidan Dam along the Blue Earth River. The service instructed those in low-lying areas below the dam to move to higher ground immediately.

The rest of southern Minnesota similarly remains under a flood warning through Tuesday, with a flood watch in effect in some southwestern parts.

CORRECTION (June 24, 2024, 10:28 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the name of a Spencer, Iowa, resident. He is Nate Gastelum, not Gatelum.

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