Burlington Battles Flood Waters

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As floodwaters slowly recede from the Quad Cities, the crest has moved on down to our southern communities.

The Mississippi River crested at 22.3 feet in Burlington, the third highest flood level in the city.

The city had to hurry to get the flood protection built.

On Thursday, the Mississippi was rolling along in its banks.

Not even a week later it spilled out, threatening Burlington's Memorial Auditorium and Big Muddy's restaurant.

"It came up a little higher than what they first told us, so we've been on pins and needles," says Jackie Brockert.

She has managed Big Muddy's through several floods at the helm of this bar.

"This is the third time. 1993 and 2008, I was managing for both of them."

When the forecast came out, the staff cleared away the second deck and watched the water overtake the steps. She says it's a scene she'll never get used to.

"When you look at it the lives lost, and how many people it affects, no, it's devastating."

A 22-foot crest allows the restaurant to stay open. At 23 feet, the power company shuts off the electricity. At 24, water is in the building. Each flood brings its own challenges, too. This time, it was speed.

"We still couldn't believe the crest predictions when we heard that," says Brockert.

"If we hadn't used it, I don't know that we would have gotten ahead of it," says Public Works Director Steven Hoambrecker. "We did in about two days what we'd done in two weeks to do in the past."

He says city workers began building sand barriers on Thursday, working 16 hour days and using a conveyor belt, racing the floodwaters around Memorial to keep the auditorium dry as the Mississippi laid siege to three sides. Hoambrecker says the crests' arrival means he can breath a sigh of relief, if only for a little bit.

"It's so early in the flood season, we've had times in the charts and this can go on up to July."

That means that some of these barriers will stay up, standing guard as the river rolls on by.

Burlington hopes floodwaters recede enough this week to give it access to the Visitors' Center again.

There are events scheduled for the weekend that could be in jeopardy if the river doesn't fall fast enough.


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