Nebraska flooding shows how extreme weather can threaten national security

The storm was the latest to damage a military base


Photo: 55th Wing/Offutt Air Force Base

Catastrophic flooding in Nebraska has wiped out roads, over-topped dams, and left at least a third of the Offutt Air Force Base submerged, highlighting the ongoing threat that extreme weather poses to both people’s lives, and national security.

massive winter storm created a “bomb cyclone” over parts of the country last week, and dumped snow and rain on Nebraska. Rain slicked off frozen ground, snow melted, and ice thawed on rivers — kicking off devastating floods that killed at least two people in the state and destroyed hundreds of homes. “This was a monster, no question about it,” Greg Carbin at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center told the Omaha World-Herald.

Now, the Omaha World-Herald reports flooding of at least a third of Offutt Air Force Base, including part of the runway and at least 30 buildings. The floods forced aircraft to evacuate, but the headquarters of US Strategic Command, which oversees the US nuclear arsenal, remained unflooded, according to the World Herald. This kind of extreme flooding threatens military readiness and, in this case, our nuclear capabilities, according to Francesco Femia, CEO of The Center for Climate and Security.

Officials couldn’t tell the World-Herald when operations were expected to go back to normal. “It is extremely clear that we face a grand challenge,” Colonel Michael Manion, 55th Wing Commander, said in a Facebook post. The base has been hit by extreme weather before, when a tornado whipped through the base in June 2017. The twister caused $20 million worth of damage, but, amazingly, no deaths.

Offutt is the latest in a string of military installations to be hit by extreme weather, Weather.com reports. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was badly damaged after Hurricane Florence struck the region in September 2018, for example. The storm led to a massive 84,000 gallon sewage spill on the baseand damaged buildings so badly that repairing and replacing them is expected to cost some $3.6 billion dollars, according to Marine Corps Times. A month later, Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida panhandle — including Tyndall Air Force Base, causing billions of dollars in damage.

There’s growing evidence that climate change is increasing hurricane intensity and worsening rainfall. But there’s more debate about whether, and how, climate change affects this kind of winter storm, which underwent a significant enough pressure drop to become what’s known as a “bomb cyclone” over Colorado. “It’s clear that additional heat and water vapor in the atmosphere are providing more energy and moisture for storms to work with,” Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Florida. “What isn’t clear is whether changes in the jet stream are making bomb cyclones more likely, and whether storms are already becoming either more frequent or stronger.”

Image result for Nebraska flooding

“IT’S CRITICAL TO OUR NATIONAL SECURITY.”

Still, extreme weather events are happening more often, according to Francis. “It’s likely that climate change is playing a major role in that increase,” she says. It’s a threat that the defense and intelligence communities have been warning about. A Department of Defense report from January 2019 warns about the risks of “climate-related events” such as “recurrent flooding.” And the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community also warns that climate hazards — including extreme weather and floods — are “threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security.”

The latest damage to Offutt shows why national security risk assessments include threats of extreme weather and climate change. “That’s why we need to let the US military do its job in assessing and dealing with climate change-related threats,” Femia tells us. “It’s critical to our national security.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Donate funds

The Salvation Army will be distributing bottled water and clean up kits to those in areas affected by floods reports the Omaha World Herald. The nonprofit is raising money for these efforts through its website.

More than 500 people slept in 20 American Red Cross locations and community shelters on Sunday night. In addition to operating shelters, the organization is providing food and relief supplies, as well as health services in neighborhoods where it is safe to do so, according to a statement Monday. Support its disaster relief operations online, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation

United Way of the Midlands is collecting donations to help people in Iowa and Nebraska affected by flooding. Donors can direct their donations to other communities affected by the flooding online, or text FLOODRELIEF to 41444 to donate.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund, is accepting donations to a fund that will go towards providing emergency aid to farmers, ranchers and rural communities in Nebraska affected by the storms and flooding. You can also write a check and send it to:

Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation
Attn: Disaster Relief Fund
P.O. Box 80299
Lincoln, NE 68501-0299

Convoy of Hope, a faith-based nonprofit that brings food, water, emergency and other relief supplies to natural disasters has set up a dedicated webpage for donations to its flood response in the Midwest.

Community foundations in Nebraska have set up a variety of disaster relief funds to support locals affected. The Grand Island Community Foundations is accepting donations for the greater Hall, Howard, and Sherman Counties. The Kearney Area Community Foundation is collecting contributions for the Kearney area. The Custer County Foundation and the Merrick Foundation cover Custer and Merrick Counties respectively.

The Food Bank of Siouxland has been making food deliveries to flood victims in places like Hornick, Iowa. You can donate to their cause on their website *with a note* saying you would like your donation to target flood relief.

Volunteer

The Salvation Army is also seeking volunteers from across the U.S. to fundraise for flood relief. You can register online or by calling 402-898-6050.

Though the United Way of Central Iowa is not currently seeking volunteers, the organization encourages those interested in assisting flood victims to register online in case more help becomes necessary.

Other ways to help

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is accepting volunteer help and agricultural donations like hay, feed stuffs and fencing for farmers and ranchers in the state. The department will take your details and the resources you are willing to donate over the phone at 1-800-831-0550.

The Foodbank for the Heartland is currently working on a disaster relief plan with other organizations across Nebraska and Central Iowa. More information about how to donate funds and food for those affected will be available on their websiteonce the plan is finalized, according to Stephanie Bayle, Foodbank for the Heartland’s brand manager.

Facebook has set-up a crisis response page where you can donate money to flood victims or offer help in the way of shelter, food, clothes or other miscellaneous supplies.

We verified organizations to the best of our ability. If you aren’t sure about the legitimacy of a charitable organization, visit Charity Navigator.


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