State of emergency

Levees breach, forcing thousands to evacuate Central U.S. floods

This image shows a small shop surrounded by floodwater.
Floodwater from the Mississippi River begins to cover the streets on May 30 in Barnhart, Mo. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Flooding in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma has caused thousands to evacuate, as recent levee breaches along the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers create new waterways that have spread into homes and businesses.

The latest: Arkansas officials called for 160 homes in Yell County to evacuate on Friday as a levee breach brought floodwaters to over 40 feet. Three Missouri towns were told to evacuate on Thursday after a levee breached along a creek connected to the Mississippi River. Rivers in the region are at or near all-time highs after weeks of torrential rainfall.

Record flooding in Plains as seen through before and after photos

Satellite view of flooding at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
Satellite view of flooding at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, HQ of Strategic Command. Image: DigitalGlobe.

A combination of a cold winter, rapid snowmelt due to mild air and heavy rain from a massive "bomb cyclone," and other factors led to some of the worst flooding on record in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and is beginning to affect downstream states. The extreme nature of the floods — which have overtaken large parts of Offutt Air Force Base, where America's nuclear forces are coordinated — is best seen from high above.

Why it matters: The floods have wiped out farms, killed an unknown amount of livestock, marooned entire towns and destroyed large infrastructure as rivers have risen, sending surges of water and chunks of ice churning downstream. While waters are receding in many locations in Nebraska, flooding is occurring further southeast into the Mississippi River Valley.