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‘Epic storm’ freezes one side of Nebraska, floods the other

WATCH ABOVE: A ferocious winter storm that's barreling across parts of the Central United States is bringing hurricane-force winds and heavy blizzards and has left more than a thousand motorists stranded, trees toppled over, and farm animals seeking shelter.

Evacuations forced by flooding have occurred in several eastern Nebraska communities, as western Nebraska residents struggled with blizzard-like conditions.

Officials report protective levees were topped or beached Wednesday in southwest Sarpy County and north of Pierce. Evacuations have occurred in Belgrade, Burwell, Cedar Rapids, Dannebrog, Harrington, Pierce, Randolph, St. Paul and Verdigre.

The National Weather Service says Loup River floodwater poses a threat to Genoa, where evacuations have occurred.

READ MORE: ‘Bomb cyclone’ hits U.S. Midwest with whiteout conditions

“This is a very epic cyclone,” Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center, said Wednesday.

“We’re looking at something that will go down in the history books.”

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Wind gusts approaching 144.8 kph were reported in the Nebraska Panhandle. The wind, blowing snow and snow-packed roadways made travel treacherous. The blizzard warnings remain in effect through 6 p.m.

This composite photo shows snowplows in Scottsbluff, western Neb., and a hovercraft in Ashland, eastern Neb. on March 13, 2019.
This composite photo shows snowplows in Scottsbluff, western Neb., and a hovercraft in Ashland, eastern Neb. on March 13, 2019. Spike Jordan/The Star-Herald and

The Nebraska Transportation Department reports that Interstate 80 remains closed west of Kearney, and several highways are closed in the Panhandle and northeast Nebraska, including sections of U.S. Highway 20.

A semi truck and trailer are swept off the road by floodwaters Thursday, March 13, 2019, in Arlington, Neb.
A semi truck and trailer are swept off the road by floodwaters Thursday, March 13, 2019, in Arlington, Neb. Ryan Soderlin/Omaha World-Herald via AP

Residents in Norfolk, Nebraska, were issued evacuation orders on Wednesday after the Spencer Dam at the Niobrara River was reported to have failed, according to the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper. The storm caused flash flooding across the Plains and Midwest states, the NWS reported.

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