MISSOURI VALLEY, Iowa — Ambulances stood ready on dry land while rescuers in boats searched house-to-house Thursday for people who did not evacuate before flooding hit Missouri Valley, Iowa.

The focus of the searches were flooded subdivisions south of the Union Pacific rail line that runs along the south edge of town.

Late in the afternoon, the searchers were still finding people holed up in homes surrounded by at least a couple of feet of brown water.

The area of modest homes is known by some locals as just "south of the tracks."

Missouri Valley Fire Chief Caleb Wohlers said more than two dozen people had been rescued.

At one point, a rescuers in a boat steered it slowly up and down the grid of streets, its blue light flashing. It worked its way around the neighborhoods, past half-submerged cars, fences and mailboxes.

Suddenly there was a clamor from the law enforcement officials and firefighters waiting and watching on high ground. Firefighters piled into the back of Wohlers' heavy-duty pickup, and he backed it into the water. The rescue boat cruised into the shallow water and up to the pickup bed. On board were a couple of residents, cold and wet, one with an electric guitar in hand.

The firefighters helped transfer the castaways into the pickup bed and wrapped them with blankets. Wohlers pulled out of the water and up to a waiting ambulance with its engine running.

The residents were transferred again and whisked away.

"It's been like this all day," he said.

He said the cold weather was becoming an issue, with no power or gas service to the flooded area.

“All cold-weather injuries are possible at this point,” he said.

Search boats were provided by the Blair Fire and Rescue, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, he said.

Some people who had evacuated the area returned Thursday to check out the surreal scene, wondering when the water would retreat and they would be able to get back in and start the clean-up.

"When it quits coming up and starts going down, we'll be happy," said homeowner Dwaine Price.

Price said that he and his girlfriend knew Wednesday what was coming.

They had checked out the Boyer River upstream in Logan, Iowa.

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"We went up north and followed the river up, and we could see where it was already cresting over the levee," he said. "At Logan, it was way over the banks on both sides. And we knew it was eventually going to get here."

Overnight, the water kept rising.

Thursday morning, a neighbor called to alert him their street had started to flood.

Then, a firefighter came knocking.

"He said, 'It's time to evacuate,' I said, 'We're leaving here in about five minutes.'"

When they left, the water was less than a foot deep.

They haven't returned to the house yet. Law enforcement officers parked their cars across entrance roads and were keeping residents from returning.

"From what we can see, water's in the house," he said.

Now it's a waiting game, he said.

His girlfriend, keeping her sense of humor, offered a plan: "We can always get our bucket and start baling."

Meantime, another resident, Shyann Cates, 20, took a chance and waded through the waters to check her house, the one where she grew up.

Cates said she wasn't in the house when the floodwater hit.

"My mom was down here, she heard the dikes broke out there," Cates said. "She hadn't moved any of her stuff yet. So then she called me. We moved what we could, and then we got out."

She said they didn't think the water would reach the house.

"We've always been threatened, but it never made it, until now," she said.

Cates said she's a mechanic, and that her 1988 Firebird is under water. They did grab some pictures.

"We have a 60-inch plasma TV in there," she said. "And my mom doesn't have house insurance either, so anything she loses is gone."