"We've had to move our operations out of the area and to our alternate emergency site," Zeller said. "We are just trying to regroup. When you don't have all of your equipment and you don't have all your facilities to operate out of -- we're at a little bit of a disadvantage ... but we're carrying on as normal."
Several emergency shelters were opened, and the city had closed all but one of its bridges over the Cedar River.
"I believe that this is God's way of doing things, and I've got insurance, so I'm not worried about it," said Tim Grimm, who was forced to leave his home in the city's Czech Village area. In Austin, Minn., the Cedar River was expected to crest Thursday night at 22 feet, 7 feet above flood stage. The river reached 25 feet in a 2004 flood that caused major damage in the city.
Some businesses and offices were closed because of the flooding, including a Hormel Foods corporate office and its Spam Museum. The city of Austin, however, has bought many properties in the flood plain since the 2004 flood and tore structures down.
"The city has been very proactive and that's going to save them some problems this time," said Mike Welvaert, a weather service meteorologist.
Flooding this week also caused damage across southern Wisconsin, where thunderstorms continued pounding the area on Thursday.
Iowa County Emergency Management Director Ken Palzkill said his county saw an "unprecedented" amount of rain Thursday afternoon. He said the village of Cobb got 3 inches of rain in an hour.
The weather service issued flash flood watches for southern Wisconsin with tornado watches in central and eastern areas. A tornado briefly touched down in Green Lake County about 4:40 p.m. Thursday but no injuries were reported.
A funnel cloud was reported in Grant County in southwestern Wisconsin, said Chris Kuhlman, a weather service meteorologist. The weather service also said flash floods in the county closed two highways and required rescues, though a sheriff's office dispatcher did not immediately have those details.
Just southeast of Grand Rapids, Mich., crews pulled the body of a motorist from a car found drifting in the swollen Thornapple River. State police said they believe the 57-year-old man called on his cell phone but didn't say what happened or where he was; they found him using global positioning equipment.
People in several northern Missouri communities, meanwhile, were piling up sandbags to prepare for flooding in the Missouri River, expected to crest over the weekend, and a more significant rise in the Mississippi River expected Wednesday.