Best of the West: Flood updates in wake of bomb cyclone; Wyoming leads in cryptocurrency; California is drought-free

The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting March 18, 2019 that you don't want to miss. Image: South Dakota Department of Public Safety

Winter storms brought extreme flooding to Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas this week. In Nebraska, 74 cities, 65 counties and 4 tribal areas declared states of emergency and Gov. Pete Ricketts joined Vice President Mike Pence to assess flood damage.

An emergency also was declared in Fargo, North Dakota, along with an order for 1 million sandbags to prepare for flooding. The city had previously invested $2.75 billion in flood prevention measures. “This is the state’s opportunity to be proactive and preventative. This is an opportunity to support a deeply vetted plan and to protect our state’s most populous area from catastrophic flooding,” said Gov. Doug Burgum.

Rapidly melting snowpack is a concern for residents in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where rivers could rise to record heights. Gov. Kristi Noem visited affected areas saying, “It's very important that I’m out in these communities seeing the kind of damage that was done during this last storm and seeing what we can do to be helpful."

Gov. Laura Kelly issued a state of emergency for Doniphan County, Kansas. "Although people often think of tornadoes as the big destructive force of nature in Kansas, floods can be just as damaging, if not more so,” said the governor.

Now that floodwaters are beginning to recede, residents are evaluating the damage and pitching in to help farmers and ranchers.

Drought Relief: Above-average precipitation is relieving drought in California, which is 100% drought-free for the first time in nearly a decade. The outlook also is positive in the Four-Corners region of southwest Colorado. “We’ve had a very good winter and early spring to help with the drought,” said Greg Waller of the National Weather Service.

Made from Scratch: Sales of homemade food products, known as cottage foods, have soared across the country and western states are taking notice. North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming are among the states with “food freedom” laws that enable producers to easily sell their products and supplement their income.

Catch and Release: A disease-resistant strain of rainbow trout is helping the species rebound in Colorado. Aquatic biologists are using a marking tactic at a hatchery to identify 20,000 fish with resistance to whirling disease, which will be released this month into the Arkansas River. 

Cryptocurrency on the Rise: Blockchain laws in Wyoming are receiving worldwide attention after the state became the first to recognize cryptocurrencies. “This is one where being first really does matter,” said Wyoming Blockchain coalition co-chair Caitlin Long. “I've had thousands of inquires personally on social media just in the past two weeks.”

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