A Nebraska village of 650 people 75 miles southwest of Omaha was under curfew early Monday after it was hit by a double whammy of floods and tornadoes.
The tornadoes crumpled 20 grain silos, popped windows out of buildings and snapped old trees near the roots in Dewitt. They knocked out power throughout town and sent two dozen people into the Pub & Skillet's walk-in refrigerator for a cramped, harrowing half hour.Water at least 2 feet deep covered most of the roads in DeWitt and all of those leading into town.
And DeWitt faced new threats Monday from a new band of tornadoes and heavy rain. Severe thunderstorms with hail the size of golf balls and 50 mph winds were heading straight for the area. Warning sirens sounded in the city of Hastings, 80 miles to the west, and the National Weather Service reported several tornado sightings in the area.
In DeWitt, where floodwaters had just begun receding a few hours earlier, the village council held an impromptu meeting Monday morning on the sidewalk in front of the volunteer fire department.
"It doesn't look good," Saline County Sheriff Byron Buzek said as he looked at the darkening, bluish-gray clouds to the west. A swampy smell hung heavy in the humid air.
"Two things in a row, but I think we're lucky," said Kerri Garrison, who co-owns the Pub & Skillet in Dewitt and shepherded at least 25 of its customers into its walk-in refrigerator after tornado warning sirens sounded Saturday evening.
No serious injuries were reported from the tornadoes that hit Saturday evening and early Sunday morning.
The DeWitt twisters left about 20 grain silos looking like they had been hit by a bomb; large pieces of sheet metal were blown across streets.
The Big Blue River and two creeks that meet near DeWitt went over their banks Sunday afternoon and spread through most of the town.
In McBride, Mo., weary volunteers were faced with mountains of suddenly useless sandbags as the Mississippi River roared through a collapsed levee.
Three would-be rescuers propped a small boat on one stack of sandbags, climbed aboard and mocked the approaching floodwaters that broke through the levee 10 miles down river.
Within 30 minutes, swirling, smelly river water inundated Al's Place bar and cafe and the rest of McBride, sending about 120 people scurrying for safety. The 20 residents of nearby Belgique also fled. The levee had protected about 26,000 acres of farmland and 60 homes.
Elsewhere, about 80,000 residents of St. Joseph remained without water Monday after Missouri River floodwaters knocked out the city's only water treatment plant. It could be midweek before the plant is restarted, officials said.
St. Joseph residents stood for hours Sunday at water distribution sites. People also scrambled for bottled water in Brownville, Neb., where flooding shut down water service for about 200 residents.
No new rain was expected in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and northern Missouri until late Monday or early Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.
At least 41 deaths have been linked to the Midwest flooding since it began last month. The floods have caused billions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses and farms.
Despite drier weather, officials were concerned that more dikes, battered for weeks by high waters, might start to crumble. At least two Mississippi River levees - near McBride and Quincy, Ill., - collapsed Sunday.
"I think the water has just been up too long on these levees," said Jack Niemi, an engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis.
The breach of the Sny Island levee Sunday, 10 miles south of Quincy, flooded 44,000 acres. National Guard and Coast Guard helicopters were used to rescue four workers from the levee, one from a tree and one from a bulldozer.
Some 125 miles to the south, officials evacuated nearly 2,000 residents for fear three levees would give way. They essentially surrendered one levee protecting Valmeyer, Ill., and some 70,000 acres of farmland because of water roiling through the structure.
Back in McBride, about 65 miles south of St. Louis, Lois Naeger was among the last to leave Al's Place. She lingered until the river was lapping at her pickup's rear wheels.
She screamed at her 22-year-old son, Stanley, to flee as water rushed through the bar's front and back doors. He was videotaping the drowning of the family's third-generation business.
The son slogged out, joining his mother on a hilltop overlooking the town.
"It's hard," said Lois Naeger, crying as the floodwaters immersed her hometown. "It's so damn hard to watch your life float away."