As the HESCO barriers on River Drive in Davenport failed, Chase Neukam was among those rushing to grab sandbags and shore up water inside Paradigm Virtual Reality Gaming and Training, 320 E. 2nd St.
"I was standing out front and saw it come in. It was like 'The Day After Tomorrow,'" Neukam said as he stacked sandbags in the East 2nd Street building. "It was like a disaster movie, heading down the street really fast. And then it started getting worse."
Around 3:30 p.m., the temporary levees at Pershing Avenue began to break. Just hours earlier, Davenport Police and Fire were walking East 2nd Street, urging people to evacuate. The Hesco flood barriers haven't been used in a flood higher than 21.5 feet, said Nicole Gleason, assistant city administrator and public works director, and there was a risk they wouldn't hold. During the day, they had been reinforced with sandbags on the tops and backs, because having the river at 21 feet was a "milestone," she said.
“If the floodwall goes, we will not have time to evacuate anyone," Police Chief Paul Sikorski told business owners.
Maureen Carter, an employee of Great River Brewery, 332 E. 2nd St., was in the brewery when she looked out and saw water "come rushing up Iowa."
"We had very little time to do anything," she said as she stood on the street about 45 minutes later.
Among those evacuated by boat from the Peterson Paper Co. Loft Apartments, 301 E. 2nd St., was Tim Schiffer, executive director of the Figge Art Museum. He had returned Monday night from a 10-day, Figge-sponsored trip to France.
Unfortunately, he said, he had left his car parked next to the apartment building where it filled to the top of the doors with water, as were at least eight other cars.
But the Figge, Schiffer noted, was built to be flood-proofed.
Public safety response to Tuesday's flooding was swift, and no serious injuries were reported.
“We had some water seeping through at Brady Street which the guys (from public works) got under control really quickly," Davenport City Administrator Corri Spiegel said. "We asked some of the businesses in the area to have their vehicles moved out of the Redstone Parking Ramp because we were taking on water.
"We moved down to the Village of East Davenport to see how the wall development there was progressing and it was looking pretty good, and it was at that point we heard the radio traffic about the breach at Pershing," she said. "By the time we got over here from the Village it was seeping well north of 2nd Street on both Iowa Street and Pershing Avenue.”
All employees and residents were evacuated from Peterson Paper Loft Apartments.
“The safety of the residents and employees is our first concern,” Spiegel said. “Once we get that taken care of the Public Works can come in and we can see what can be done about reducing the impacts to the property in the area.”
Spiegel said that they knew that given the forecast the day was going to be touch-and-go. “Unfortunately the rain came fast and furious, and the localized flooding didn’t help. This is the first time we’ve had the Hesco system tested like this.
“This is going to be an hour-by-hour ordeal,” she said.
For those who need it, a shelter is set up at Lincoln School, 318 E. 7th St., Davenport. The Red Cross is stationed at the Iowa Room at the Radisson Quad-City Plaza. 111 E. 2nd St., Davenport, to assist people in need.
Rene Gellerman, President and CEO of the United Way of the Quad-Cities Area said people who need services can call the agency’s 211 number between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays if they need services.
Gellerman said United Way is working with the American Red Cross of the Quad-Cities and Western Illinois to help those in need.
While Davenport has the most dramatic flooding, it's an issue across the Quad-Cities. Here's a look at what's happening:
The crest hasn't arrived yet. And it's now forecast at 22.4 feet
National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Pierce said the Mississippi River at Lock and Dam 15, Rock Island, was rising a little quicker than the forecast. But the breach could draw the crest down somewhat.
“That’s the part we don’t know yet,” Pierce said. “We’re still trying to figure out how much water is now in the downtown area.”
As of Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. the Mississippi River was at 21.87 feet and rising. The forecast crest of 22.4 feet is expected Wednesday.
Depending on overnight rains, it could drive the crest higher, threatening the record the 22.63-foot mark set in 1993.
At the 21.87-foot mark, it is the fifth highest flood on record. And it's the longest flood on record: Wednesday marks the 39th day of continuous flooding here.
Trump declared an emergency in western Iowa. Officials are working to get it to apply here
Scott County has been advocating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to extend President Trump's declaration of an emergency for western Iowa to other parts of the state dealing with flooding, said Dave Donovan, director of the Scott County Emergency Communications Center and Scott County Emergency Management Agency.
"Right now, we don't understand the impacts of this flooding. Many areas are still under water and until the floodwaters recede it's impossible for us to begin to estimate what those impacts might be," he said. "Very wet soil conditions from last fall along with high amounts of snow in the winter months and spring rains have created a very bad situation for us,"
He, too, guessed it may eventually match the record set in 1993, one of the worst natural disasters in the region's history.
On Tuesday, U.S. Congressman Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said he will "continue to work with FEMA and the Trump Administration to ensure the local emergency responders have access to the resources the federal government can provide."
Gov. Kim Reynolds tweeted: "We are in contact with @IowaHSEMD, @iowadot, and local officials on the ground concerning the severe flooding in Davenport and working to make any necessary resources available."
What the flooding means for first responders
Road closures from flooding make it "definitely challenging" for ambulances to get to where they need to go when responding to a call, said Jeremy Pessman, a spokesman for Medic EMS.
“I would say that any time you have to change your path because roads are closed does affect (response time),” he said. "We cover a lot of Scott County, so anywhere where there’s river and people who live on the river, it does become challenging to find a proper route.”
Medic EMS tries to plan ahead for the road delays, and Pessman said he sent out a map with all road closures along River Drive in Davenport, U.S. 67 and Territorial Road in LeClaire to employees.
Robb Mcdougall, assistant chief of operations for the Davenport Fire Department, said floodwaters have affected some of the fire department’s access to some areas, especially in the southwest part of the city.
The fire department has boats stationed at the Central Station downtown and at the station on Telegraph Road.
“It slows things down a bit, but we’re ready for it,” he said.
Mcdougall said the fire department uses boats to help Public Works get access to the Credit Island Lodge to check on flooding and damage.
Pessman said Tuesday afternoon that despite the flood and rain, it was a "pretty normal day" call-wise.
Is my drinking water safe?
Yes, your drinking water service is safe. Iowa American Water Co. built a new floodwall in 2013 that will protect against flooding to 31.4 feet.
"This is probably the first real test we've had. We've had floods (prior) to this where we've gone through the motions — we've closed the doors and done what we needed to do to practice," spokeswoman Lisa Reisen said. "But I don't think the water has been near this level for a long time."
Earlier this week, Iowa American shut down all of the floodwall gates at the center of its property, which also shut down any rail traffic. "They will remain closed until the river levels drop below 21 feet."
Behind the wall, it's business as usual, said Reisen. "We want to stress to our customers that the drinking water continues to meet all the EPA and Iowa Department of Natural Resources standards for safety, and obviously we're taking extra safety precautions to protect the treatment facility as well as the water quality."
On Monday afternoon, Canadian Pacific Railway closed its route through Davenport because of high water, spokesman Andy Cummings said in an email. "CP is enacting a reroute plan for trains affected by the outage. CP is closely watching flood forecasts and establishing a plan for an orderly restart of train operations when conditions allow."
The sewer will overflow into the river
With this level of flooding, there's "definitely" going to be manholes with water entering them faster than gravity can keep up. If the water rises above the top of the outlet pipe, that's called a surcharge, and that's very possible, Gleason said.
Gleason — and many other authorities — are warning people to stay out of floodwater.
Buffalo: We need help sandbagging, but otherwise, please stay away
Unless you’re going to Buffalo to help with the sandbagging efforts, city officials are asking you to stay away.
The bank in town is closed, along with some other businesses that have been inundated by the Mississippi River floodwaters. Many residents were not prepared for the higher-than-predicted crest, and help is needed throughout the small city in southwest Scott County.
The only problem is getting there.
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Highway 22 along the Mississippi is closed on either end of town, and the only good way to access Buffalo is by taking Coonhunters Road off Highway 61.
“You can’t get through town, but that’s not keeping people from trying,” said Tanna Leonard, city clerk. “If you’re coming to help, come on in. But people are trying to come through who shouldn’t be here.”
She said the townspeople are eager to hear of a disaster declaration, which would deliver extra aid for the flood fight and, ultimately, the cleanup.
“We’re pushing for it,” Leonard said. “I know Scott County is working hard toward that.”
Volunteers should report to City Hall at 329 Dodge St. or call 563-381-2226. Or, for more information, visit City of Buffalo on Facebook.
— Barb Ickes
Better than '93, but Garden Addition still a concern
The collection of neighborhoods in west Davenport were in a crisis in the 1993 flood.
Since then, some of the most flood-prone homes have been bought out, but the neighboring creek continues to present concerns.
The water in Black Hawk Creek was nearly reaching the bridge Tuesday afternoon. City pumps are working on several street corners, and residents are keeping a close eye on the rising water.
Upper Mississippi locks closed, halting barge traffic
With all but two locks closed along the Upper Mississippi River, local barge traffic has come to a complete halt, said Allen Marshall, a spokesman for the Rock Island District of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Lock and Dam 15 in Rock Island closed last month due to flooding. Lock 19 in Keokuk and Lock and Dam 21 in Quincy remain open, but they're expected to close within the next couple of days.
That will mean all of the locks along the Upper Mississippi, from Dubuque, Iowa to Saverton, Missouri, will be closed.
"I don't think there is a typical flooding season anymore. Locks were also closed in March due to high water," Marshall said. "We had some closures last year, and it happens, but it hasn't been a regular occurrence — at least not to the extent that all of these locks are closed right now. That's rare."
As a result, companies shipping products on dozens of barges up and down the Mississippi River are searching for alternative means of transportation or are dealing with stalled operations.
"There's not much you can do with multiple closures," he said.
Marshall said as the water recedes, locks will open along the river from north to south. He expects Lock and Dam 11 to reopen around May 3, with the rest of the locks opening late next week, depending on the river level.
What's happening in Muscatine?
"As you can imagine, things are pretty wet down here. We are at 22.7 feet and expected to crest at 24.1 on Thursday," Muscatine Communications Manager Kevin Jenison said. "Mississippi Drive will be shut down to traffic from Mulberry Avenue to Pine Street this evening. Most of Mississippi Drive from Mulberry to Iowa is already covered in floodwater."
The city is patrolling the levees 24-7, Jenison said, and also have two pumps working to pump water back over the levee around the Musser Park area.
When asked what he was feeling during the flooding, Brad Bark facetiously replied, “joy.” He's thankful for the help he’s received in sandbagging and preparing for flooding. Bark, owner of Bark Chiropractic, 200 E. 2nd St., said he heard water levels were going down in Dubuque and Camanche and it would be another day or so until water goes down in Muscatine. Flooding goes along with living on a river, said Candice Bark, Brad’s spouse and co-owner of the building.
“When the river is high and there’s a lot of rain,” she said. “This is to be expected.”
“We’re used to this,” said LeAnn Wienke, general manager at Missipi Brew in downtown Muscatine. “Mother Nature’s going to do whatever Mother Nature’s going to do, and we just have to deal with it.”
Wienke said the restaurant and bar on Iowa Avenue has seven pumps in the basement working full-time to clear out water in the basement, and parking has been for customers because of floodwaters, but other than that, it’s business-as-usual. Also known as The Brew, Wienke said it's a stop on the Rev It Up for Awareness motorcycle ride and rally this weekend where about 600 bikers are expected to visit.
“We’ll be ready for them,” she said.
—Meredith Roemerman and Matt Enright
Bud's Skyline Riverview needs help, too
The brother-sister team that is re-opening their father's namesake restaurant in Davenport was close to finally opening their doors when the near-record flood hit.
By 11 a.m. Tuesday, the Mississippi River was lapping at the seawall behind Bud's Skyline Riverview.
As Davenport Public Works crews were delivering sand and sandbags, co-owner Audie Canfield was calling on former owners of the building at the base of Oneida Avenue to ask where to place the sandbags.
"This is my first rodeo," Canfield said. "I don't even know where, exactly, the water comes up."
City officials told Canfield she could use the sandbags placed in her parking lot on the downstream side of Bud's, because the city is abandoning efforts to save that area.
"They said they're going to let it go, and we can have those bags they put around the storm sewers," she said. "I only have a few people to help fill bags. I need help."
Volunteers are asked to dress for the rain and bring a shovel, if possible. The address is 1201 River Drive, and the best route to access it is via Oneida Avenue.
Audie and her brother, Brian Canfield, have been working on getting their restaurant open for months. They were required to pull permits and undergo various inspections because of improvements they made to the building.
Their father, Charles "Bud" Canfield," sold his Skyline restaurant at the Quad-City International Airport to the airport authority in October 2015, and it was razed to make room for new development.
He died about nine months later, and his children bought the former Driftwood restaurant late last year as a tribute to their dad.
Water restoration company keeping 'head above water'
Blaze Restoration has been flooded with calls, so to speak, from customers requesting water damage services.
But, Business Development Director Mark Carlson said it's the rain, more so than the flooding, causing the deluge of calls.
"Where the flooding comes into play is in the lower areas, where storm sewers have trouble handling the water at the height," Carlson said. "It's a rainy season so that always makes it busy. Then, Moline had a power outage, so sump pumps had some trouble, which added to it."
Despite rising floodwaters and rain, Carlson said the call volume has not surpassed this past winter, where customers dealt with broken or frozen water pipes.
"We are getting more calls, but we're keeping our head above water," he said.
Operations Manager Nichole Gauf, with SERVPRO, said with sump pumps failing and water seeping in from foundations, the company also has received a large number of calls. But, she said the call volume has been typical for this time of year.
As the floodwater recedes, she expects the number of service calls to increase.
Carlson cautioned businesses and residents to be prepared, even if they haven't been affected by flooding in the past. He suggests using battery back-ups for sump pumps, plus calling the restoration company for an evaluation.
What's next, and how to help
The City of Davenport is coordinating with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army to assist any residents affected by the breach in the River Drive flood protection. Approximately 25 people helped evacuate an area of Second Street west of Brown Street.
The Salvation Army is accepting donations of bottled water, non-perishable food/snacks, new pillows and bed sheets, towels and washcloths, and toiletries. Donations can be dropped off at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds on Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Businesses within the flood zone can request sandbags by calling Public Works at 563-326-7923 or submitting an online request to https://yourgov.cartegraph.com/ . The Mississippi River is forecast to rise another 5 inches on Wednesday.
Downtown residents and workers can park for free in the Harrison Street ramp because the Redstone ramp is affected by floodwater.
Officials from the City of Davenport and Scott County Emergency Management will hold a media briefing at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the community room of the Davenport Police Department.