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Preparing For Possible Historic Flood Levels, Southwest Iowa County Opens Shelter

Pottawattamie County Emergency Management
Flooding in Oakland, Pottawattamie County.

Flooding that could top records set more than 20 years ago in southwest Iowa has one county taking precautions and opening a shelter.
The National Weather Service says the West Nishnabotna River near Hancock in Pottawattamie County is expected to crest 10 feet above flood stage around midnight Thursday, reaching almost 24 feet. That’s slightly higher than the previous record set in July 1993.

A blend of the winter’s heavy snowfall, a rapid warming event melting the snow, and additional rainfall, it’s a “once in a 20-year event,” said Suzanne Fortin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Valley, Nebraska.

“It is historic in that through our period of record, most of the flooding that we’ve seen on the Nishnabotna typically occurs during the summer,” Fortin said.

Due to this, Pottawattamie County officials, city officials and the American Red Cross have opened up a shelter at the Green Hills Area Education Agency in Avoca for people whose homes may be threatened by flooding.

Doug Reed, the emergency management director for the county, said they are prepared to take in “a decent number of folks” if they have to.

“It’s a long duration in the overnight hours where that water could actually get to residential properties in different areas,” Reed said. “It was important for us to have something available, should folks feel that it’s prudent for them and their family and they don’t have any place to go, that they did have a place to go…”

No one has come to the shelter yet. Reed said they're not "overly concerned", they’re just taking precautions.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.