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Passenger rail route suspended, more evacuate amid Missouri flooding


    An aerial photo, taken Tuesday, showed flooding along the Missouri River in Pacific Junction, Iowa. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says rivers breached at least a dozen levees in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. Hundreds of homes are damaged, and tens of thousands of acres are inundated with water.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. >> Passenger rail traffic along a popular Missouri route was suspended and evacuations continued today amid flooding along the Missouri River.

Amtrak said Tuesday that it was temporarily halting its Missouri River Runner Service between Kansas City and St. Louis. Because of the flooding, it said, freight traffic was being diverted to tracks Amtrak uses. Buses were transporting passengers instead.

Crews with Union Pacific worked for hours to get rail traffic back to normal in Nebraska and other states hit hard by floodwaters from a massive late-winter storm last week, said the company’s spokeswoman, Raquel Espinoza.

The Missouri River already crested upstream of Rulo, Nebraska, and the water was expected to make its way downstream in coming days, cresting Thursday in St. Joseph at its third-highest level on record. More than a dozen levees have breached in Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has handed out hundreds of thousands of sandbags to help with the flood fight.

The surging waters have damaged hundreds of homes and been blamed for two deaths in Nebraska and one in Iowa. Two other Nebraska residents, including a man who was last seen on top of his car near a levee, remain missing, authorities said today. The flooding has also taken a heavy toll on agriculture, inundating tens of thousands of acres, threatening stockpiled grain and killing livestock.

In northwest Missouri, a levee breached Tuesday and unleashed a torrent that overwhelmed a temporary berm that was built up with excavators and sandbags to protect the small town of Craig, where the 220 residents have been ordered to evacuate.

“They’ve got water running down Main Street,” said Tom Bullock, emergency management director of Holt County, where Craig is located.

Water also was lapping at the edge of the tiny community of Fortescue and another levee was at risk of breaching and potentially flooding Forest City.

“Every levee we have just about is busted,” Bullock said.

Some of the levees have broken in multiple spots, with some breaches hundreds of feet wide, said Mike Dulin, emergency management specialist for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Kansas City district. He said the agency also was monitoring several other levees between Holt County and Kansas City.

The 130 residents of Missouri’s Lewis and Clark Village continued evacuating today amid road closures.

Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday surveyed flooded areas in Nebraska. He promised expedited action on presidential disaster declarations in that state and Iowa, where water is being trucked into several communities because floodwaters forced the shutdown of water treatment plants.

Flooding also has forced the Air Force to cancel the 2019 Defenders of Freedom Open House and Air Show at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center said today that flooding also is a concern across parts of the northwest, northern Rockies and High Plains as warm temperatures this week are leading to accelerated snowmelt and the potential for ice jams.

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