Pott County bracing for record cresting levels at W. Nishnabotna River

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HANCOCK, Iowa (WOWT) -- River levels are rising quickly on the West Nishnabotna in Pottawattamie County. The rain, ice chunks and rapid snowmelt have quickly turned into a bad combination.

High waters at Nishnabotna River on Wednesday morning, March 13, 2019.

Anticipating the river to crest overnight at just more than a record-breaking 26 feet, authorities in Pottawattamie County were advising residents to be prepared for "worst-case" major flooding.

“There are many variables in this scenario that will impact the river levels,” commented Doug Reed, Director of Emergency Management. “With existing snow pack, frozen ground, and varying ranges of potential rainfall this event could go either way – however, we need to be prepared for the worst-case potential.”

An emergency was declared Wednesday for the communities of Avoca, Hancock, Oakland, Carson, Macedonia, Council Bluffs, and unincorporated areas of Pottawattamie County as a preemptive measure.

Residents were encouraged to sign up for emergency weather warning and community alerts at PottCounty-IA.gov, to receive information aon evacuations, should they become necessary, and other emergency notifications and information.

According to a release from Emergency Management, county and city agencies were preparing to secure storm sewer systems, roads, and other infrastructure that may be impacted.

"Urban streets are likely to experience flooding during the heavy rain event, and some rural highways and roads near and around the Nishnabotna River could be closed due to floodwaters," the release states.

Also on Wednesday morning, secondary roads near Red Oak, Iowa, were closed: Avenue C was closed between 150th and 170th because of water over the roadway there, too. Reports indicated deep snow and heavy "ponding" were not allowing water to go anywhere.

"It's surprising how fast it goes," Sharon Winget said about the snow. "You think it never will go away, and then all of a sudden it's going."

Winget has lived in the area for more than 30 years. She has never seen the water come all the way to her house and hopes it stays that way.

Standing water at a nearby city park is right between her house and the fast-moving river. Some are now fearing it could rival the flooding seen here in 1993.

"If it is that, that's a lot of water here," Hancock Mayor Harold Hoffmann said. "We're pretty flat."

Hoffmann said he expected a truckload of sand coming in Wednesday, with sandbags available to prepare in any way they can.

"A small town has only got so many people to do stuff," Hoffmann said. "It's kind of hard to get it all done sometimes."

He said it was not hard to find people in the small town volunteering to help out, though. People there are just hoping the rain can hold off.

"We've got enough water here to get rid of," Hoffmann said. "It would be good if we didn't have to deal with all of that."

For those who live in the area, they are watching and waiting to see what happens next.

"I'm pretty confident we'll just stay put," Winget said.

Hoping they won't have to head to higher ground.

According to the National Weather Service, the West Nishnabotna is expected to crest near Hancock Thursday just over 24 feet. That's at major flood stage. It would also break a record of about 23-and-a-half feet.