HUDSON --- Flood warnings remain in effect for portions of the state, but threats are subsiding in Northeast Iowa as rivers ease away from many communities.
The Wapsipinicon at Independence continued to rise at 5 a.m. today, but the Cedar River in Waterloo was falling, according to the National Weather Service. So was Beaver Creek in New Hartford, where officials were concerned a gravel road might wash out Thursday evening, releasing up to 6 feet of water west of the city.
Other towns remain in harm's way. The Iowa River at Tama has been flowing at or above the previous record level since about Tuesday, and the Cedar River at Vinton will not crest until Saturday, according to the weather service.
Even those who anticipated high water Thursday were caught off guard by Black Hawk Creek's rapid rise at Hudson.
Heather Bartlett's husband, Gary, called at 6:30 a.m. to say Watters Road west of Hudson was clear and dry. An hour later she looked outside.
"I saw 3 feet of water," she said.
Like most of her neighbors, Bartlett headed for higher ground. Most, not all.
Using a flat-bottom boat, firefighters from Hudson and Cedar Falls retrieved nine people and two dogs after the floodwater got too deep for vehicles. The rescue operation took about two hours.
Bartlett watched as familiar faces joined her on dry land.
Bartlett was one of the last in her neighborhood to drive out.
"It's just amazing how that current is. It was a scary decision, though. But they told us, 'If you're going to go, go now,'" Bartlett said.
Black Hawk Creek peaked Thursday at 18.96 feet, just below its record high of 19.03 feet of April 25, 2008, according to the weather service. Bartlett and her family went through that experience, too.
"We're in the 500-year floodplain --- we're not even required to have flood insurance --- and now we've had two floods in five years," she said.
Stacy Lee of Hudson is a member of the Shady Oak Equine Association and was among owners moving horses. Trailers and trucks lined up on Watters Road hauled about 40 animals away in minutes.
"It was really nice that Monday we got in evacuation mode. Last time it really took us by surprise," Lee said.
A list compiled by the National Weather Service reveals why much of the state is swimming: A lot of rain just about everywhere.
The leader in the unofficial totals was Zearing, which from Saturday through Wednesday received 11.44 inches.
Totals from closer to home:
Grundy Center, 7.99
In May 2012, Waterloo received just 3.2 inches of rain for the entire month.
This year, Waterloo has received 10.81 inches as of Thursday.
Rain remains in the forecast today for Waterloo, but amounts will be light and the prospect for severe conditions are low, according to the weather service.
In New Hartford, Kevin Bolton, an employee with the Dike-New Hartford School District, helped prepare the elementary school, blocking exterior doors with sandbags.
"We put them out Monday, but we had to take them down so the kids could get out. We put them back up last night," Bolton said Thursday.
Officials bused students to Dike for classes. Today is the district's final day for the 2012-13 year.
Planners for Beaver Creek Days in New Hartford canceled all events scheduled for tonight and Saturday, including the parade, volleyball tournament and 5K run.
"We decided to postpone because of the flooding potential," said Lori Palmersheim, lead organizer.
"We just have so much water in town, and who knows what else we're going to get," she added.
Committee members are discussing an alternate date for the celebration.
Swollen river levels also forced organizers of the 2013 Charles City Challenge to postpone this weekend's whitewater events on the Cedar River. The new date is June 29.
"We know experienced paddlers will embrace these higher water levels, and we expect the riverfront to be active this weekend," Ginger Williams, tourism coordinator for Charles City, said in a prepared statement.
"However, the Charles City Challenge is intended to serve a variety of skill levels, and we want to hold this event to accommodate all participants," she added.
Information about the event is available online at ccwhitewater.com or call the Charles City Area Chamber of Commerce at (641) 228-4234 or email email@example.com.
Farther upstream, organizers of the Cedar River Float in St. Ansgar will decide Monday whether to postpone that event, according to organizers Jim and Laura Hughes.
The 26th annual float is scheduled June 8-12, beginning at Otranto Park just south of the Minnesota border. Participants canoe or kayak to Janesville in five days.
As flood cleanup begins, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is urging precautions. Many municipal wastewater treatment facilities could not keep up with the amount of water flowing into their plants, and untreated sewage has entered many waterways.
Elevated levels of bacteria and other contaminants pose a threat for people with wounds susceptible to infection and those with weakened immune systems, the DNR states.