Residents of Wood River were waiting Thursday morning for floodwaters from its namesake stream to begin rolling through the south-central Nebraska town.

"The water has yet to arrive, but Wood River knows the river is going to go through their town and there's no escaping that," Jon Rosenlund, emergency management director for Hall County, said Thursday. "They just want to push the water through town as fast as possible. We're hoping enough sandbagging and other preparations have been done to minimize the damage."

The Wood River is expected to rise to 13.1 feet by midday, according to the National Weather Service office in Hastings. At 12 feet, extensive flooding is expected on the north side of the town of Wood River, which is about 15 miles southwest of Grand Island. 

"We anticipate that the water depth will be similar to March," Rosenlund said, when the river level hit 13.09 feet. "This time, more and more residents are prepared with sandbags around their window wells."

The Wood River Fire Department, Nebraska State Patrol and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission are among the entities mobilized to aid the town of 1,350. Authorities have been able to pile sandbags at key spots and have cleaned out ditches to allow floodwater more room to disperse, Rosenlund said.

"At this point, we've done about everything we can," he said. "We're watching and waiting."

The American Red Cross opened a shelter Wednesday at Wood River Rural High School, 13800 W. Wood River Road. Rosenlund said 33 people spent the night in the shelter, which can hold 70, if necessary. A Red Cross shelter remains open at Lexington High School, 1400 Minuteman Drive, in Lexington.

At Alda, a village of about 650 just west of Wood River, residents placed sandbags along Alda Road to try to push floodwater north into diversion canals, Rosenlund said. In March, the Wood River split at Alda and began flooding in two directions. 

Flood warnings are in effect this week for several communities after three days of rain in south-central Nebraska. An estimated 3 to 6 inches of rain fell across the region Monday night into Tuesday, with some even higher amounts, such as 8.88 inches of rain recorded at Loomis. An additional 1 to 2 inches of rain fell across the area Tuesday night.

Flooding also is expected on the Republican River from Orleans to Hardy; on the Little Blue River from Deweese to Hebron; and on the Platte River from Overton to Grand Island.

Flood stage on the Platte River at Grand Island is 6.5 feet, the weather service said. The forecast calls for the river to crest at 7.8 feet. 

"We don't anticipate problems in the town," Rosenlund said of Grand Island. "There are some property owners and businesses near the Platte River that may have water in the parking lots and up to the buildings."

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kevin.cole@owh.com, 402-444-1272

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