ANDALUSIA — At 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Candy Dooley looked out the window and saw it everywhere, black and thick like tar.
Floodwater from the Mississippi River, inching toward homes mere feet away.
Dooley got ready in a hurry. Friends and members of the family had been preparing for this since Monday night, sandbagging the river rim and putting pumps in place.
But on Wednesday morning, more help was needed. So at 6 a.m., Dooley sent a text to friends in the area asking for help.
Three hours later, 15 volunteers had shown up. By mid-afternoon, a sandbag barrier had been laid to wall-off the rising river.
“That’s Andalusia,” Dooley said. “You ask for help and you get it.”
Dooley, who works at Bettendorf Heating & Air Conditioning, estimated that over the last three days around 20 people had volunteered dozens of hours to sandbag the row of homes that back the Mississippi River, west of Andalusia proper.
Flooding materials can break the bank — over $3,000 for the pumps, in addition to some 2,500 sandbags, 70,000 pounds of sand, and the opportunity cost of time spent preparing for a flood, Dooley said.
And that doesn’t include any costs of flood damage, which can be astronomical if severe.
Like every river town in the area, Andalusia has been battered by heavy rainfall and rising floodwaters over the last week.
Near the center of the village, a creek had overflowed onto 2nd Avenue, blocking a section of the road. A makeshift wall had been set up to keep the water from spilling onto nearby properties and roadways.
At the port of Andalusia, off 1st Street, water had risen nearly to the height of the dike. Trees, light poles, and boat landings popped up through the surface of the water, half-submerged.
Kayla Ulfig, of Milan, said that the massive rise of the water level was “mind-boggling.” Her son, Nick, liked to descend the dike’s hill in search of turtles around the water.
But the water level had risen 10 or 15 feet, she estimated. Nick wondered where the turtles go when the port floods.
Still, for homeowners, the harshest effects of the flooding might be felt along the Mississippi River, west of the village.
Up and down Illinois 92, dozens of houses, farms, driveways, roads, and fields were flooded or bogged. One large home at the end of a short block was untouched by the creeping water as of Wednesday afternoon, but its driveway was inaccessible.
A neighbor said the water had risen recently and rapidly, and there was some concern the situation might soon get worse.
Adversity tests community. But, if Dooley and her neighbors are any sign, Andalusia seems eager to let the rising floodwaters not sink their sense of home.
“We’re fortunate, very fortunate,” Dooley said from the porch, gazing into the passing waters of the mighty river. “I wouldn’t give up this community for anything.”
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