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Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal file 

Contractors fill sandbags March 15 in Dakota Dunes on Pebble Beach Drive near the intersection of Spanish Bay. South Dakota and federal officials have scheduled a flood insurance assistance meeting for April 9 in North Sioux City.

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Some traffic reopens in Pender as northeast Nebraska village takes down flood wall

PENDER, Neb. -- Access in and out of Pender eased Friday as floodwaters that had virtually surrounded the northeast Nebraska village slowly receded.

As of Thursday, Highways 94, 9 and 16 were all either closed or impassible due to flooding, leaving the village virtually isolated. To protect the village from the swollen Logan Creek, local leaders activated both their flood gates.

Photos: Flood preparations and recovery across Siouxland

The north flood wall was taken down at around 11 a.m., allowing the state Department of Roads to reopen Highway 9 for traffic, according to the village's Facebook page. The east wall will remain in place until a state-mandated inspect of a damaged bridge on Highway 94 can be completed. The village warned that could take some time because many bridges in the state were damaged in the recent flooding and also require inspections before they can reopen.

Highway 16 was reopened but traffic restrictions were in force due to construction work, according to a state road report.

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

No residents were told to evacuate but those who felt unsafe in their homes were given the option of staying at a temporary shelter at the Pender school, according to the village's Facebook page. Water entered the Pender Community Center, as deep as 1.5 feet in some places, and remained closed until further notice, according to the page.

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Record river flooding level in Cherokee, Iowa

CHEROKEE, Iowa -- The Little Sioux River comes out of its banks in many years, so it's a notable benchmark of the severity of Siouxland flooding that a record flooding mark has been reached for the Little Sioux in Cherokee.

The National Weather Service on Friday reported record river heights for seven spots in Northwest Iowa, plus others in Southeast South Dakota, and a big portion of both states remain under a flood warning. The new record high for the Little Sioux as it meanders through Cherokee is 28.4 feet, or more than 11 feet above flood stage.

The previous record was 27.9 feet in 1993.

On Thursday, the Cherokee Sheriff's Office noted a common place for flooding, Spring Lake Park in Cherokee, was a high point, so U.S. Highway 59 was closed near the area of the park, due to Little Sioux water being over the road. The river floods out of banks in that park area once the 17-foot mark is reached.

Water was also over East Main Street, and temporary housing was set at the state's Mental Health Institute in Cherokee for people needing a warm place to stay.

Further south along the Little Sioux River in Cherokee County, other portions of county roads towards Quimby, Iowa, closed Thursday. A bridge near Quimby reopened about 8 a.m. Friday.

Rivers have come out of banks in recent days due to heavy rainfall and snow melt.

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

In a social media post Friday morning, the Cherokee County Emergency Management Agency noted people were asking why Cherokee County wasn't on the disaster list.

"I have made the request to the Governors Office this morning to be included in the proclamation for State Assistance for this event," the post said.

"In my one person office, I choose to go knee deep with crews to make sure all of their needs are met during the event. As soon as the major part of the event clears, I switch to the office portion of the job. While we wait for waters to go down, is normally when I get to this step. The next step is beginning damage assessments once the water goes down enough to start doing this.

"The damage assessments are important, because this is how we figure out how much damage we actually have to report to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and see if we can ask the Federal Government for financial help."

Cherokee and many Northwest Iowa counties were last part of a flooding disaster proclamation area in September 2018, after two days of heavy rain. Additionally, in June 2018, another huge impact of flooding was experienced in Northwest Iowa after widespread rains, when the Little Sioux River at Cherokee crested at 24.47 feet.

Dakota Dunes evacuations possible as swollen Missouri River bears down on metro Sioux City

SIOUX CITY -- Drew Noel said the levees protected his family's home on Pebble Beach Drive in Dakota Dunes during the unprecedented Missouri River flooding in the summer of 2011. On Friday, Noel was hopeful that the large square sandbags contractors in blaze-orange vests were filling along the property would do the same.

"It's a beautiful thing to live out here," Noel said from his driveway as a backhoe moved sand just feet away. "Sometimes, nature's beautiful; and sometimes, nature can throw you a curve ball."

Authorities on Friday morning warned hundreds of residents in southeast South Dakota to prepare to evacuate their homes in advance of rising floodwaters on the Missouri. Noel said his family was plugging floor drains and moving some items out of harm's way, but he didn't think they would need to evacuate.

Photos: Flood preparations and recovery across Siouxland

Union County Emergency Management and the county sheriff's department told residents in Dakota Dunes, Riverland Estates, Wynstone, and adjacent rural residences to secure their possessions and consider voluntarily evacuation. The American Red Cross set up a temporary shelter at the Sioux City West Middle School, 3301 W. 19th St.

Local flooding fears escalated after the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased flows from the upstream Gavins Point Dam to levels not seen since the 2011 flooding, which forced the four-month-long evacuation of hundreds of residents in the Dunes, an upscale planned community with dozens of lots fronting the Missouri.

Releases at the dam near Yankton have been raised to 90,000 per cubic feet to leave room in the adjacent Lewis and Clark Reservoir, which has filled due to snow melt and heavy rains on frozen, wet soils, and unanticipated runoff from uncontrolled tributaries.

The corps also was dealt a major blow Thursday when a dam near Spencer, Nebraska was breached. The dam plays a major role in controlling the Niobrara River’s flow into the Missouri River near Niobrara, Nebraska.

Because the high runoff, the corps since Wednesday has ceased releases from Fort Randall Dam, the next dam upstreams from Gavins Point, to reduce impacts below the Yankton dam.

Based on the new upstream releases, authorities believe the Missouri River may reach elevations of 1,092 to 1,093 feet at Dakota Dunes and 1,096 to 1,097 feet in the Wynstone development this weekend.

In Sioux City, the Missouri is forecast to crest at 30.8 feet late Saturday or early Sunday, just above the 30-foot mark when minor flooding typically begins. 

Sioux City Fire Chief Tom Everett continues to monitor levels on the Missouri, which rose to 25.97 feet on Friday morning. Everett said "minor flooding" is expected along the riverfront.

Dana Livings, general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn Sioux City Riverfront, said Friday that sandbagging efforts were underway at the hotel and conference center, built along the shores of the Missouri.

"We do have some concerns. We're just keeping an eye on it and watching it every hour," she said.

On the Nebraska side of the river, South Sioux City Administrator Lance Hedquist said campers were being relocated from a portion of the riverfront Scenic Park Campground due to flooding worries.

"We have room for them to move to," he said of the camping rigs. "That's the only place that we foresee any problem."

Currently, the flooding is likely to last a few hours, Everett said, and may impact the Interstate 29 interchange at Hamilton Boulevard. He was quick to add that this won't be as severe or as long-lasting as it was when the river flooded in 2011.

"That year, the Missouri remained at 35 feet for a considerable amount of time," Everett said.

The fire chief said he also doesn't expect flooding from the Floyd River, Big Sioux River or Perry Creek, three other waterways that flow through the city. Though the Big Sioux is above flood stage upstream, he added the Riverside neighborhood should not see any flooding impacts.

Still, Everett said people should avoid the riverfront for the next several days as the city and Woodbury County Emergency Management continue to implement precautions.

Those precautions include filling a berm at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and adjoining Betty Strong Encounter Center, according to facilities manager Mike McCormick. McCormick said the interpretive center, a private nonprofit cultural complex built and sustained by Missouri River Historic Development, will be closed in the event of flooding.

During the 2011 Missouri River flooding, releases from Gavin, the smallest of the six upstream dams, corps peaked at a record 160,200 cubic feet per second. That shattered the record of 70,000 cfs set in 1997. That means this week's releases are now the second highest on record.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the ownership of the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and adjoining Betty Strong Encounter Center. The private nonprofit complex was built and is sustained by Missouri River Historic Development. 

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Workers pump out water from a drain near Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City Friday.

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Displaced Hornick, Iowa, residents voice frustration over flooding uncertainty

SLOAN, Iowa -- It seemed like all of Hornick's 225 residents were packed into a room to hear details Friday about the flooding in their tight-knit community and how soon they could return home.

After several people asked a similar question on when the West Fork of the Little Sioux River would recede, allowing them to go back to clean up their damaged homes, Hornick Mayor Scott Mitchell, near the end of the meeting replied to one man, "Bill, as soon as it is safe to let you back in, we'll let you know."

A few minutes before that, Mitchell had said to the crowd, "I can't put your life in jeopardy because you want to get back in there...I don't know when we are getting back in. I hope it is sooner rather than later."

Mitchell said displaced residents staying in hotels or with relatives or friends in nearby towns may believe their homes only have flooded basements. But Mitchell said there are unseen dangers in the low-lying town, because floodwaters, in covering streets that can't readily seen, also blew out manhole covers, so people wouldn't know what they are driving or walking into.

A Hornick man in the back of the room aired his frustration, saying he may seek to move and sell his flooded home, then added, "But no one is going to buy it."

Mayor Mitchell responded, "I'm gonna is your choice."

The river began rising Wednesday, as rain fell and snow melt flooded nearby waterways. At 6 a.m. Thursday, Theresa Myres left her Hornick home for her job at a Sioux City metro hotel. Myres said her apprehension grew as the day went on, and in a phone conversation with her husband, found out the evacuation had been ordered.

"It is heartbreaking. A lot of people don't have a lot of places to go. Thank god we got our dog (Kora) out," Myres said.

She said the family has lived in Hornick since 2004, and believes water was contained to her basement. Myres was resigned to the power of nature, saying, "There is one thing about water: you can't stop it. It has a mind of its own."

Bret Hayworth, Sioux City Journal 

Hornick Mayor Scott Mitchell, in front of room, speaks to Hornick residents at the Sloan Fire Station Friday. At the meeting, the mayor and other officials updated the more than 200 displaced residents on the ongoing flooding in the small Woodbury County town.

Still, Myres was frustrated about not getting a solid timeline for getting back into her home, in a 75-minute meeting that was held in the fire department hall of Sloan.

"Nobody got really any questions answered," Myres said.

An mandatory evacuation was ordered following the breach of a levee on the West Fork of the Little Sioux River.

The National Weather Service on Friday announced record river heights of the West Fork at 26.6 feet near Hornick. Minor flood stage for the West Fork starts at 20 feet.

Rebecca Socknat, Woodbury County Emergency Coordinator, said only one road in town remained open. It was used exclusively by emergency responders and personnel.

Meanwhile, the American Red Cross continues to operate an emergency shelter at Westwood School District building in Sloan. One person stayed at the emergency shelter Thursday night, Socknat said.

Hornick is about 25 miles southeast of Sioux City. Socknat was among a large panel of county and other emergency officials who gave information to the residents.

"We understand there are some emotions running high now," Socknat said.

Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew added, "Your community is an outstanding community that is hopefully long on patience."

Rick Moore, the electrical operations manager for MidAmerican Energy, said workers will have to inspect each home to make sure they are safe in terms of power and water utilities. Only then can people return.

"It's going to be a slow process. We'll go as fast as we can," Moore said.

Some of the officials said that with an emergency declaration ordered by Gov. Kim Reynolds, Hornick residents can get financial assistance for losses. They said it is important to take pictures and catalog the items damaged, in order to be reimbursed later.

Julie Sievers, a senior environmental specialist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said people should be methodical and sanitary in cleanup activities once allowed back in homes.

"Use bleach, use gloves, be safe...Consider the bacteria that is in the water," Sievers said.