Winter Storm Oliver

Winter Storm Oliver is causing record breaking flooding from Texas to Michigan. Frozen ground in the northern states means the heavy rain has been unable to infiltrate into the ground. Coupled with snow melt, this is leading to increase runoff.

The stalled frontal boundary has brought more than 5 inches of rain to areas in the Midwest within 24 hours. The National Weather Service reported up to 8 inches had fallen in northern Indiana since Monday. Some Midwest regions have experienced more than a month of rain in less than 48 hours, breaking records for the wettest February in places. The states of Michigan, Illinois and Indiana are currently experiencing record flood levels, with more rain expected.

The rivers St. Joseph, Illinois, Kankakee, Iroquois, Elkhart and Yellow are all on major flood alert, with many other in the region on moderate alert following rising water and bursting banks.

Record flood levels are being broken along the St Joseph River. At South Bend, Indiana, the record was previously set in 1982 and reached again in 1993. Niles, Indiana, had record levels set in 1950, now broken by at least a foot of extra water.

Areas at risk include Elkhart, Indiana and Lansing, Michigan, both home to over 50,000 residents. Flooding in Lansing is expected to affect hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses; at least 6 neighbourhoods have been recommended to evacuate in Lansing alone. Commercial areas of Goshen, Indiana are reported to have received up to 4ft of water.

Sadly there have been reports of two deaths: a 1-year-old girl in Michigan and a 52-year-old woman in Illinois. A freight train has been derailed in Michigan and two school buses were pushed off the road by flood water in Arkansas and Indiana. No major injuries were reported. Multiple water rescues have been reported from all states affected.

Rising water is threatening properties in areas of South Bend and Niles, Indiana and Lansing, Michigan, but many residents are also being evacuated in Lansing, Michigan, Elkhart and Goshen, Indiana and Marseilles, Illinois. Many towns along the flooding rivers are experiencing road closures, with locals protecting homes and other properties with sandbags.

South Bend and Elkhart school districts in Indiana cancelled classes on Wednesday, while bus routes around Lansing, Michigan have been altered. Multiple road closures reported in all affected states, with authorities urging locals to adhere to any barricades and warnings put in place.

Heavy rain is expected to continue until the end of Thursday with flood levels peaking by the end of the day for the Midwest states. Heavy rain is due to continue for Texas and Ohio Valley into the weekend. The weekend also brings potential flash floods in the Appalachian Mountains, and snow is a further possibility for the Great Plains and West Great Lakes.

As the situation continues to develop, we’ll produce further updates. 

Update

Flooding in the Midwest states of Indiana, Illinois and Michigan appears to have reached a peak and river levels are in decline.

Record flood levels were broken along the St Joseph river yesterday, placing the many towns including the Indiana towns of South Bend and Niles at risk of flooding. Lansing, Michigan was also expecting heavy flooding, with over 200 families being forced to evacuate.

The rivers St Joseph, Yellow, Iroquois, Kanakee, Salt Fork and Deep River all reached their expected peak flood level by Thursday evening with water levels expected to recede over the next few days. The Illinois river in Ottawa crested on Thursday evening too, but levels are still expecting a slight rise at locations, such as Morris, further along the river.

Localised property flooding along the Deep River and Little Calumet River was reported in the towns of Lake Station, Indiana and Dolton, Illinois. Around 30 properties were flooded to a level of roughly 5ft in Lake Station. This included two farms, where animals were rescued from their flooded stables. Multiple water rescues have occurred in all affected Midwest states, with the death toll now increasing to three.

Mandatory evacuation in Marseilles, Indiana was lifted by the authorities on Thursday, allowing residents to return home. Previous flooding in Marseilles occurred in 2013, affecting large areas of the city; the effects of this latest flood have been limited.

Road closures are still in place for St Joseph County, Niles, and Elkhart County, Indiana. Flooding is due to continue for Elkhart City, Indiana, Lansing, Michigan, and Plymouth, Indiana, but levels are no longer expected to rise.

River levels are on the decline, and the effects of flooding have been limited. We don’t anticipate providing any further updates.

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