Mississippi, Rock flex muscles on Friday

Originally Posted Online: April 18, 2013, 10:43 am
Last Updated: April 19, 2013, 9:26 pm
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Staff report

The swollen Rock and Mississippi rivers were still flexing their muscles Friday, causing headaches for those within their reach.

On Thursday afternoon, both rivers overflowed their banks to flood low lying areas, cut off roads and turn houses close to the shore into islands. Many of Friday's flood problems, however, focused on the Rock.

As of7:30 p.m. Friday, the National Weather Service rated the river as major flooding at Joslin, where it was at 17.34 feet, and also at Moline, where it was at 14.81 feet. Flood stage at both locations is 12 feet.

Karen Pouder and her husband, Frank, live near Barstow on 12th Avenue North just off 193rd Street North. On Friday, the water was starting to cover 12th Avenue and overwhelm the adjacent fields, threatening to cut off their house and pretty much give Mrs. Pouder a lake view.

But she said she's seen worse. In the 30 years they've lived there, she said there have been seven record floods. In one case, she said, her husband was trapped in the house and she was trapped out of it, forced to stay with her sister for five days.

"It's not the worst we've seen," Mrs. Pouder said. "No, not yet."

The couple has stocked up on food for themselves and their animals, she said, and are ready to wait it out.

Along 193rd Street North a little past the Pouders, Rock River water in low-lying woodland was close to spanning the roadway to touch water welling up out of the ditch, leaving barely a car-width for passing vehicles.

Past its intersection with 193rd Street North, Barstow Road disappeared under the dark, cold water. By late Friday morning, it was blocked by white and orange "Road Closed" signs.

Many farm fields along Barstow Road also were filled with the overflow, letting geese, ducks, pelicans and other water fowl replace the deer that otherwise might be seen there. In areas where the water was relatively calm, mats of vegetation and trash covered the water.

In Barstow, members of the Carbon Cliff-Barstow Fire Protection District on Friday were preparing for another day of fighting water rather than fire. They filled bags with sand to add to the good-sized pile next to the fire station.

Fire Chief Matt Schnepple said the sandbags would be used at critical infrastructure, such as pump lifts, electrical substations and the fire station. The firefighters and their families spent hours Thursday beefing up a reported weak point in a levy at the edge of town.

Chief Schnepple said people were not preparing for this flood as much as they had during previous floods of similar scale. 

"That's of some concern to us," he said, urging people not to take the waters lightly.

Colona was fighting water on two fronts -- the Rock and Green rivers -- according to Colona public works director Rick Crew. The Green River, at one point, began to top its levee system. Workers were reinforcing it when the river began to recede, Mr. Crew said..

The Rock River at the Illinois 84 bridge had well overflowed its banks Friday, besieging nearby homes. Mr. Crew said the the Rock River was mainly a threat to the part of Colona sandwiched between Illinois 84 and the Hennepin Canal, a low-lying area home to about 1,500 people.

However, the levees were holding, he said, and Colona was ready to barricade roads and other low points if needed.

The neighborhoods along North Shore Drive and South Shore Drive, which rim either bank of the Rock River near Moline and Milan, had lost all or most of their yards and driveways to the water Friday. Canoes could be seen moored near front doors. Cars and trucks that could not be parked in swamped driveways were queued up on high parts of the road.

Northwest of Milan, water flooded into land and ponds overseen by the Rock Island Conservation Club. As of Friday, a great deal of room still separated the club's buildings and the flood waters.

Former conservation club president Al Classen said that, in earlier flood seasons, the water threatened buildings but never actually damaged them. Like the Pouders, he said he's seen worse.

"Nothing compares to '93," he said, referencing the record flood of that year. "At least not yet."

The Rock River is expected to crest  Sunday at both locations, according to the NWS. At Joslin, the crest is expected at 19.1 feet, just below the record of 19.2. At Moline, the crest is expected at 16.3, just below the previous record of 16.4 feet.

The Mississippi River on Friday also was reminding people of its power. As of 7:30 p.m., the NWS had rated the river in a moderate flood stage. Water was at 17.85 feet; flood stage is 15 feet.

Water pushed well into downtown Davenport's riverfront. Late Friday afternoon, city workers were packing sand into a barricade that lined the center of River Drive. Access to roadway was cut off, and water was flowing from pipes and other drainage systems for buildings in the blocks immediately adjacent to it.

"We are in great shape," city spokeswoman Jennifer Nahra said in a Friday afternoon email. The city's flood plan was activated, and the defenses thrown up, in record time, she said.

Flood barriers were in place at locations such as Modern Woodmen Park and the Credit Island Lodge, with other portions nearing completion. A city news release said staff were switching from fortifying Davenport against the river to monitoring its defenses.

Sandbagging stopped Friday after a team of employees and Scott County Jail inmates filled 25,000 bags in two days, the release stated.

The Mississippi River is also expected to crest Sunday at 19.7 feet, well below the record of 22.6 feet, according to the NWS.

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