Over this past weekend, the Mississippi River topped out at 20.7 feet in the Quad Cities - 5.7 feet above flood stage. Although it never got to the projected 21.2 feet, it was still the sixth highest flood in history. The above picture is a panoramic view of the Mississippi on the left, Le Claire Park along the riverfront (and sometimes in the river) straight ahead, and River Drive along the south side of downtown Davenport to the right. Last Saturday was the nicest day we've had around here for quite sometime, so I decided to take the camera out and get some pictures of the flood.
The pictures I took were in the morning on Saturday and right at about the time the river crested. Below to the left is a picture of River Drive right next to the Village of East Davenport. This is just down the hill from our house and provided a good starting point for a tour of the flood area around the Quad Cities. River Drive is one of the main thoroughfares in Davenport and it has been shut down now for about two weeks. As the water continues to drop, they hope to have parts of it open by this weekend.
Above right is a picture of the corner of Mound and River Drive in Davenport. This is the main entrance to the Village of East Davenport shopping and entertainment area, so having the intersection effectively closed put a damper on business for a number of merchants. Notice the Davenport police car sitting as a lookout for anyone who dared to go around the "road closed" signs and into the water on River Drive. The water depth is deceiving on some of these roads.
The Iowa American Water plant just south and west of the Village of East Davenport was fully prepared to keep the river out. Initial projections of the flood had the river topping 25 feet in the Quad Cities thanks to an abundance of snow up in Minnesota and Wisconsin. However, cold temperatures up north slowed the melting process and the river didn't come up as high as earlier expected. Even with more snow and some rain up north, when the river did flood they knew it would be high, but not as high as earlier expected.
Not wanting to go through what Des Moines went through in 1993 when they lost their clean water for nearly 2 weeks, Iowa American Water built a flood barrier that would keep the river out up to 25 feet. In the past, flood protection consisted primarily of just sandbags. This flood, the City of Davenport bought hundreds of Hesco Bastion barriers to keep the water out. The barriers - used primarily for military purposes, civil construction and security - are also great for keeping flood waters out of areas. The bastions are 4' X 4' X 4' and can be erected, put in place and filled with sand in about a third of the time - and at a much lower cost - than traditional sandbagging efforts. Iowa American had a 200 yard barrier in front of the water plant along the levee just up the river from downtown Davenport. Although the water didn't make it over the levee, they were certainly ready for it to happen.
Heading down along River Drive toward the downtown (it was open westbound only at Mound Street), I went along until I hit the eastern end of the detour that took people around the flood waters in downtown Davenport. Below left is the corner of Federal and River Drive. Hesco barriers are holding back about three feet of flood water over River Drive. Once again, this was at the height of the flood.
Davenport is the largest city along the upper Mississippi River that does not have a permanent flood levee. It's a point of consternation with some taxpayers and with the federal government who is tired of funding clean up efforts in Davenport after major floods. However, if you walk along the Davenport riverfront on a warm summer evening, you'll quickly figure out that having a flood barrier would ruin the view and the ambiance of the river would be significantly altered. Thanks to three of the biggest floods to hit the area over the past 18 years, the City of Davenport really has their act together. They began to mobilize flood efforts back in March when it appeared that this would be a big one. When projections were down-sized, the city workers did a remarkable job of getting the barriers up and protecting businesses in the Davenport area. Still, some businesses along River Drive and in the East Village suffered, but at least they weren't completely closed up and facing a long clean up after the flood.
The above picture is of Lock and Dam 15 along the Mississippi. Between the fencing on the left and the grass on the right is River Drive. This picture was taken from the north entrance to the Government Bridge that takes people over to the Rock Island Arsenal. River Drive dips below the bridge and right under me the water was about 10 to 12 feet deep.
Above left is a stairwell that goes from 2nd St. down to River Drive. The water was up to the second step above the landing and there's another 15 steps or so down to River Drive. Above right, here's a picture of River Drive looking up river from the Government Bridge. The sign, itself, is about 11 feet high to the top, and it's sitting on an upslope that brings River Drive up from under the Government Bridge. This part of River Drive is usually the first place to flood and the last place to get rid of water when it floods on the Iowa side of the river.
I went across the Government Bridge and ended up in downtown Rock Island. They have a permanent flood barrier as well as temporary flood walls that they put in place when the river comes up. I climbed up on the permanent flood wall and took this panoramic picture of the Davenport riverfront. Yeah, it's sort of difficult to see unless you zoom your browser up to about 400%, but the picture stretches from the Centennial Bridge on the left, Modern Woodmen Park just to the right of the bridge, then Le Claire Park, the Figge Art Museum, Rhythm City Casino and on up river to Lock and Dam 15. I've got this panorama program that can stitch some pictures together and it does a pretty good job from time to time. It's just that when you take more than three or four pictures and try to stitch them together that the finish product comes out pretty small.
Speaking of Modern Woodmen Park, this is the first year that Quad City River Bandits games didn't have to be cancelled or rescheduled for later dates due to a flood. The City of Davenport initially built a flood berm along the outfield area when they did an overall renovation to the stadium about four years ago. This effectively helped keep water from engulfing the field from the east and south sides of the stadium. (Photo at right courtesy of Quad City Images.)
This year, the city erected a portable flood wall that cut out the need to sandbag around the west and north sides of the stadium. The flood wall is easily recognizable in the picture above. They placed a series of posts about 10 feet apart around the outside concourse of the stadium, then dropped in six foot high flood gates to keep the water out. The stadium literally became an island surrounded by flood waters, but the games still went on as scheduled.
Unfortunately, the parking lots around Modern Woodmen Park were unusable, as were the sidewalks that took you to the stadium. For this problem, the City of Davenport erected a walkway made from scaffold frames and plywood. People could park in the streets north of River Drive, then get on the walkway at corner of River Drive and Western Ave. to make it to the stadium. It was sort of shaky and wobbly in some parts of the walkway, but it did its purpose. It cost the City of Davenport something like $44,000 to erect the walkway. But if the River Bandits had to cancel games because people couldn't walk through the flood waters to get to the stadium, the city would have to pay them something like $6600 a game. With the River Bandits home during a good part of the flood, the city ended up saving money in the long run.
I ventured over to the Freight House and went up on the second floor outdoor patio of what used to be Nan's Piano Bar. The picture above left is looking east past Union Station and along River Drive in front of the Figge Art Museum. The Davenport sky bridge is in the background and you can see dozens of people who came out to take pictures or gawk at the flood. Sort of like what I was doing that day.
Above right and to the immediate left is a view of Le Claire Park and the ornate band shell that is completely surrounded by water. This is where a number of festivals take place including the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest and River Roots Live. However, if the water doesn't recede quickly, it could damage the grass and the park could become off-limits for a couple months as the city tries to re-seed or re-sod the damaged turf areas. They're supposed to be doing some renovations to the backstage area of the band shell at some point - I had hoped it would be before the River Roots Live event in August. But that may be put on hold for the time being. I'm guessing the park will be ready for River Roots Live, but the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest in early July may be touch and go.
A lot of people joke that the sky bridge - also derisively called "the bridge to nowhere" - is worth the price it cost to build during the floods. Originally touted as a bridge to connect a downtown parking garage with the Rhythm City Casino, it sort of just stopped just short of the casino's entrance. The City of Davenport said that patrons of the casino could use the sky bridge to get over flood waters. But during the double crest flood of 2008 (see my entries on that flood here and here) city officials deemed that the casino had to be shut down as there would be no way for emergency vehicles to make it through the flood waters up and down River Drive if a medical situation occurred on the boat. So the sky bridge is basically just a long lookout tower that gives great views of floods. Well, and it is a great place to view the Davenport riverfront during normal times, too.
But the sky bridge and the adjacent top of the parking garage are both good places to get some pictures of the flooding. The top picture at the beginning of this entry is taken from the sky bridge and stitched together with my panorama program. Above left is the woebegone and long-closed Levee Inn - sort of an iconic structure when it comes to historic floods in Davenport. The Flood of 1993 saw river waters come up to just under the red-outlined awning around the building. They have marks on the side of the building that denote the height of certain floods.
Above right is Lock and Dam 15 with the equally woebegone and long-closed Dock Restaurant in the foreground. Too many floods have made the building unusable. And that's too bad. As the building is right up next to the river, it was a pretty neat place to take people from out of town for a good meal and a drink while you watched the river roll by. And they used to have some of the best clam chowder that I've ever had.
Before I left the downtown area, I had to stop by the Front Street Brewery to see the efforts the City of Davenport employed to keep that restaurant open during the flood. The city erected a number of Hesco barriers along River Drive and encased them in plastic with sand bags on top and along the base of the barrier. There was some seepage from the base of the barriers, but the city had crews on site 24 hours a day to man pumps and to look for any breaches in the portable dam. The water was still about a foot below the top of the barrier at its crest on Saturday about 11:30 a.m. - about the time this picture was taken.
I took these three pictures from up close along the barrier until I was told by a city worker that I couldn't be anywhere near the area. I was actually out in the street up next to the Hesco barrier and he said that I wasn't supposed to venture off the sidewalk. The city didn't want anyone walking in the flood waters as the water had been tested and found to have low levels of fecal matter. I told the guy, "Even when it's not flooding there's low levels of fecal matter in the river. It's the world's largest toilet!"
He sort of laughed when I said that...
After the river crested on Saturday, it started a slow descent that saw the river levels go down about a foot by Monday night and it should be down below 19 feet later today. Projections are that the river will continue to slowly recede and be close to 17 feet by next Monday. That is if we don't see any more heavy rains in the region before then. This has been a soggy April with more than half the calendar days seeing measurable precipitation here in the Quad Cities so far.
While the flood is a big event and it does cause some hardships for people who live and work along the river, I have to say that I was overly impressed with the planning and efforts that local municipalities and private companies put forth in combating the flood waters. I've lived here for nearly 20 years and they just seem to get better and better with each flood that occurs.