WOOD RIVER — Wood River residents and emergency responders are playing the waiting game — the expected Wednesday night floodwaters are moving slower than predicted.

With flooding in the Riverdale and Hazard areas north of Kearney, community members in Wood River responded by sandbagging 25,000 bags, surrounding the city with 16-inch water-filled irrigation pipes and creating a water diversion on the corner of Highway 30 and Cottonwood Street.

Fire Chief Todd King said the closest sight of flooding Thursday morning was on Cameron Road, which is two miles west of town.

“I was down Cameron Road at six o’clock this morning and now it’s impassable,” King said.

Workers filled three long sacks of water next to two culverts at the intersection of Highway 30 and Cottonwood Street. One culvert is under Highway 30 and is moving the incoming floodwaters onto the south side of Highway 30 and around town. The other culvert is moving the water into the ditch on the side of Highway 30.

King said he is not sure how much water Wood River should expect, but many of the reports he has received upstream say this flooding will be worse than March’s flooding.

“I thought it was going to be here over night and it didn’t make it,” King said. “It’s spreading out a lot more than it did before, but eventually it will come back to the basin and increase the flow.”

King said the ditches along Highway 30 have also cleared out to allow water to move through.

Mayor Greg Cramer said the floodwaters arrived approximately 14 hours later than the town had anticipated. Floodwaters were supposed to crest around noon, but the late water arrival is extending the arrival of the crest.

“This water here was supposed to show up last night at ten o’clock, so it’s 14 hours behind,” Cramer said. “That crest time is going to be 14 hours behind.”

Wood River councilmen, Heather Rotter, said the floodwaters are moving slowly but steadily. She said the water under the bridge North of Wood River on Wood River Road rose two feet since Thursday morning.

Despite the steady flow of water, Rotter said the diversion on Highway 30 and Cottonwood Street has been helpful dividing the water into the ditches along Highway 30.

“We’ve been diverting so much of it and down on the east side of town it’s starting to back up in the ditch where we drudged out,” Rotter said. “We are keeping it off the road, which is as much as we can hope for right now.”

In response to the flood warning, the American Red Cross opened a shelter at Wood River Rural High School Wednesday afternoon. The shelter manager, Douglas Evaretts, said the shelter was set up at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and had people checking in at 10.

Evaretts said 33 people had signed into the shelter as of 10 a.m. on Thursday. He said the high school has two gymnasiums and that means there is more room for people seeking shelter. Evaretts has accommodated the shelter so families with children and single-family households can settle comfortably.

“I feel 100% more prepared this time,” Evaretts said.

If people are seeking shelter, they just have to sign up at the front doors and bring the following:

— Prescriptions and emergency medications.

— Foods to meet any unusual dietary requirements.

— Identification to show residence in the affected area and other important personal documents.

— Extra clothing, pillows, blankets and hygiene supplies.

— Supplies needed for children, infants, or elderly or disabled family members.

“We are here if they need it,” Evaretts said.

Red Cross shelter information and access to flood-related resources may be accessed at www.redcross.org/apps/

As another response to the upcoming flood, the Wood River Fire Station and the Central Nebraska Humane Society in Grand Island are collaborating to help evacuate pets. Beckie King, the animal liaison for the fire department, said she noticed the need for pet evacuations and decided to work with the Humane Society’s emergency response trailer.

“We would like to get set up sooner than later and let people know ‘bring your animals with you,’” Beckie said. “We found out last time that if they can’t take their animals, they won’t leave.”

Residents can take their pets to the Wood River Fire Department and the Humane Society’s emergency response trailer will pick them up and transport them to the Humane Society.

Beckie said this service is free of charge and they encourage all pet owners to evacuate with their pets. She said 10 pets have already evacuated as of Thursday morning.

For updates on the Wood River flooding, follow the Wood River Fire & Rescue Department’s Facebook page.

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Natalie Saenz is The Independent's summer intern for 2019. She welcomes news tips and information 24/7!

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