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Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Ben Ronfeldt, left, assistant Hornick Fire Chief, and Don Payne go door-to-door to evacuate residents Thursday in Hornick. An evacuation order for the town was issued when a levee holding back the West Branch of the Little Sioux River was breached.

UPDATE: Almost all residents evacuated from Hornick after levee break

HORNICK, Iowa -- Almost all residents left the small Woodbury County town of Hornick as of the early afternoon Thursday, following evacuations ordered after the breach of a levee on the West Fork of the Little Sioux River. 

Rebecca Socknat, Woodbury County Emergency Management Coordinator, said pretty much all willing residents had evacuated the town. 

"We do have reports that a few residents have chosen to stay," she said, though she was unsure whether they were still in town. 

The Mayor of Hornick, Scott Mitchell, ordered an mandatory evacuation of the town after the levee broke Thursday morning. Emergency workers and county sheriff's deputies were going door to door to urge residents to leave their homes ahead of advancing floodwaters. 

Emergency workers prepared an emergency shelter at the Westwood School in nearby Sloan, and residents were welcome to go there. 

Curt Crichton, the fire chief in Hornick, said significant floodwaters had not yet arrived in town by Thursday afternoon. It was not clear how long it would take for the floodwaters to trickle in. 

"We are trying to put a plan together as we speak to save the properties" of the community, Crichton said. "How deep is the water going to get? I don't know, sir." 

He also didn't know how long Hornick residents would be displaced: "My crystal ball is muddy." 

Heavy rains and snowmelt sent the West Fork of the Little Sioux River out of its bank, Socknat said. Many residents reported standing water in their basements.

Hornick, population 219, is about 25 miles southeast of Sioux City.

Brad Adams, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, said the West Fork was at roughly 26.5 feet in depth at noon, just a hair below major flood stage. Minor flood stage for the West Fork starts at 20 feet. 

The West Fork is expected to crest at just below 27 feet sometime during the late afternoon or early evening hours Thursday. 

This is a developing story. More information will be added as it becomes available. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article online contained an error in Rebecca Socknat's name. 

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Flooding in Moville, Iowa: 'Not often you see whitecaps on the highway'

MOVILLE, Iowa -- Diane Pilar surveyed the fast moving water that flooded Iowa Highway 140 in Moville Thursday morning.

"It is not often you see whitecaps on the highway," Pilar said with a sour smile.

Pilar stood in a home just the highway, which was covered with several feet of water from the nearby West Fork of the Little Sioux River, which had roared out of its banks due to heavy rainfall and snow melt. She talked with Moville residents along the highway such as Mark Heger, whose basement had water several feet deep.

"We have a couple of houses that have water around them completely," Moville Mayor Jim Fisher said.

Highway 140 is the main entry point into Moville from U.S. Highway 20, which also was partially underwater Thursday. The flooding forced state officials to temporarily set up a detour for westbound traffic on the four-lane highway. Later in the day, the highway reopened, but traffic was reduced to one lane in each direction.

With other areas in the southwest part of town also inundated with water, Fisher declared a state of emergency for Moville, population 1,625.

The mayor pointed to the 4-Way convenience store, a typically busy hub for Moville, which lies where Highways 20 and 140 meet. Deep water surrounded the c-store, an adjacent car wash and was up to the edge of Haskell Pool, the city's swimming spot.

"One person drove into the water, his pickup stalled, (he) had hypothermia, with water up to the windows," Fisher said. Emergency crews had to extricate the man about 5:30 a.m. Thursday, Fisher said.

Just before noon, an emergency declaration for all of Woodbury County was signed by the county board of supervisors. By noon Thursday residents were evacuated in Hornick, a town of about 209, as the West Fork flooded and a levee broke near Iowa Highway 141. Flooding also was reported in the Bronson, Correctionville, Danbury, Lawton and Oto areas, as more than a dozen roads in the county were closed due to wet conditions.  

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation late Thursday for Woodbury and 20 other counties experiencing flooding, including Harrison, Ida, Monona, Montgomery, O'Brien and Sioux.

The Woodbury Central School District in Moville initially had a late start of two hours Thursday, then switched to a full cancellation, said Jeff Crick, of Moville, who serves as transportation director for the school district.

Fisher and Crick said it was the worst flooding they've seen since living in Moville in the 1970s. They both pointed to a 1993 high water event, following a barrage of rain that impacted Siouxland and well across into eastern Iowa.

"This one is taking up more area," the mayor said.

Plus, that one 26 years ago didn't come in the late winter, Crick noted. The recent weather pattern had a month of substantial snows that ran to March 9, as well as five weeks without the temperature reaching 32 degrees to get any melting.

"That was summer rain. But this, with frozen ground or ice, there is nowhere for the water to go, to sink in. I just can't believe what it looks like...It looks like a fright," Crick said.

Crick also looked down towards the 4-Way store, saying, "That semi (trailer truck) is halfway under water."

Lucy Morgan has lived just off Highway 140 in Moville since 1962, and said she was doing better than Hager, due to being slightly higher up a hill.

Morgan knew the melting period that started midweek, plus rain on Wednesday and Thursday, would make for potentially hazardous conditions. She woke up at 2 a.m., then 3 a.m., peering out to see if water had risen problematically, but couldn't tell in the dark.

On waking, Morgan said, "This morning, my phone was ringing off the hook. Couldn't get my dog to go out, and I could see the water was going up."

Heger briefly walked into Morgan's house, checking in on her, in spite of his flooding problems being much worse.

"He's going to lose everything," Morgan said after Heger exited. "He's lost his car. He's got one (other) car OK, because he moved it into my garage."

Fisher said the city experienced problems Thursday in part because the north-most wastewater lift station, designed to move water from lower to higher elevations, particularly where the elevation of the source is not sufficient for gravity, was itself flooded.

Therefore considerable land in Moville, which is flat from downtown to the city's north edge, was underwater along Highway 140. That meant several feet of water on a ballpark complex with three fields to the east of the highway. Further up the highway, officials closed off part of Highway 140, and other sections of county roads in the vicinity of Pierson and Kingsley.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Law enforcement officers block the intersection of U.S. Highway 20 and 1st Street in Moville Thursday as floodwaters from the West Fork of the Little Sioux River inundate the Woodbury County town. 

Pender 'locked down' as floodwaters leave roads impassible

PENDER, Neb. -- All roads in and out of the community of Pender have been made impassible or closed down by floodwaters. 

Highways 94, 9 and 16 are all either closed or impassible due to floodwaters. Tom Perez, the Emergency Manager of Thurston County, said the road situation leaves Pender virtually isolated. 

"It's locked down, you can't get in or out," he said. "We don't want people coming in and out of town." 

The floodgates near Pender at Logan Creek Dredge have been deployed, and will be up until further notice, Perez said. 

"When we deploy that, it closes the highways in and out of Pender," he said. 

The National Weather Service in Omaha said depth readings of the Logan Creek Dredge have proven unreliable due to ice flows in the river. 

Though the town is pretty wet, Perez said residents haven't yet been evacuated. 

Rural county roads in Thurston County, particularly gravel roads are "not good at all," Perez said, though the extent of damage may be difficult to assess while the flooding is ongoing.