Kayaking the Nebraska State Fair (copy)

Cactus Jacks owner Jeff Leo uses a kayak to traverse the Nebraska State Fair fairgrounds in August.

A record wet August in Nebraska capped off a soggy summer, which together caused the state more woe on the heels of spring’s catastrophic floods.

The state averaged 5 inches of rain in August, two-tenths of an inch above the previous record set in 1977, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Overall, this past summer was Nebraska’s 11th wettest on record, out of 125 years, according to the National Centers.

The state has been in the grip of wetter than normal weather for more than a year. The past 18 months have been the wettest on record for Nebraska, a trend that extends far beyond the state’s borders.

The Lower 48 states also are in the midst of their wettest 18 months on record, according to the National Centers. That heavy rain and snow have led to widespread flooding, and scientists are researching the underlying causes.

August was the month that a kayak was used as a convenient way to get around the Nebraska State Fair after heavy rain fell on already saturated soil. Grand Island, home to the fair, set four daily records for rain this summer, one in July and three in August.

July was the month that brought flash flooding to Kearney and emergency evacuations from hotels and a mobile home park.

In contrast, June was the driest of the three summer months, when compared to normal.

This part of the country is given to extremes, so record rains are part of the weather DNA in the Great Plains.

But scientists also are seeing an increase in extreme precipitation consistent with the changes that have been forecast for a warming world, according to the National Climate Assessment. (The planet’s atmosphere contains more water as it heats up, which means that there’s more water available to fall during rainstorms.)

There has been so much storm damage in Nebraska this year that Gov. Pete Ricketts extended his first disaster declaration from this spring, and then issued a second one. As a result, the 2019 state of emergency period in Nebraska ran from early March through early September.

The rain hasn’t let up, either. In September, destructive flooding washed out roads in north-central Nebraska. Brown County firefighters rescued a pickup driver who was swept about 200 to 300 yards down Bone Creek before she was able to grab onto a tree.

In the near term, more rain is expected, which has the National Weather Service advising people in the water-soaked Midwest to watch for renewed flooding.

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

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