The latest advice on flooding in eastern Nebraska: It may get worse before it gets better.
That's the consensus from the National Weather Service, which provided an update Thursday afternoon on the conditions.
Though flooding inundated cities such as Columbus and Norfolk and caused dozens of road closures, some rivers have not yet crested, and even some of those that have will stay above flood stage for days, said Brian Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Omaha.
"The bigger rivers like the Platte and the Missouri are the ones that are going to be there awhile," Smith said on a conference call with media and state and local emergency officials.
The Weather Service's Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service website shows that many areas of the Platte will continue to see higher levels. For example, at Leshara in Saunders County, the river was just below flood stage Thursday morning but was forecast to rise more than 3 feet by late Friday night or early Saturday morning and remain elevated until Monday or Tuesday.
The Platte is not expected to crest at Louisville until late Saturday night, and it is forecast to stay above flood level until late Monday or early Tuesday.
A bigger concern may be the Missouri River. Areas downstream are not expected to hit their crests until next week, and the river could stay elevated through the end of the month.
The river is expected to crest at Decatur on Friday, but it won't hit its highest levels farther downstream, at Nebraska City, Brownville and Rulo, until Monday.
The National Weather Service predicts a record level of 46 feet at Brownville.
Many areas of the river are expected to stay above flood stage until at least March 25, "and probably longer than that," Smith said.
He also said the predictions could change now that the Army Corps of Engineers has increased releases from the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, South Dakota.
Wednesday morning, the corps was releasing 17,000 cubic feet of water per second. That had increased to 50,000 cubic feet Thursday morning, and the Corps said it increased the releases to 90,000 cubic feet at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Smith said there is some concern that Missouri River flooding in Southeast Nebraska and southwest Iowa could affect Interstate 29.
"We're watching that closely here to see what will happen," Smith said.
A portion of Interstate 29 was closed Thursday afternoon north of Council Bluffs due to flooding threats. Interstate 680 is also closed in Iowa.
Many rivers in northeast Nebraska that have already reached their expected crests will remain elevated for at least a few days.
For example, the Elkhorn River near Pierce, which crested at a record 17.56 feet early Thursday morning, was expected to stay above flood stage until Saturday.
The Loup River near Genoa, which also hit a record level early Thursday morning, was expected to stay above flood stage until Saturday, as well.