As a slow-moving crest works its way down the Mississippi River this week, flood-weary Iowans living along the water were doing their best to cope with the rising water.
In Davenport on Sunday, River Drive lived up to its name: The street looked like a river, but residents said their sandbagging efforts are working.
James Perez, who was helping a local business owner fill sandbags Thursday night outside Mary’s Bar in downtown Davenport, estimated about 180,000 pounds of sand encircled the business they were trying to protect.
About a block away, the barrier outside the bar kept water from entering the business, which remained open Sunday evening.
Perez recalled the 2019 flood, when the Mississippi River broke through a temporary barrier, covering streets and surrounding homes and businesses.
“This time around, we knew ahead of time what to do so I kind of took charge,” Perez said. “I took all the volunteers who were not sure what to do and organized them into a team.”
Some are making the best of a bad situation. With music playing on a portable speaker, Joseph Anderson and Jimi Williams spent a recent afternoon in their kayaks floating down River Drive.
Anderson, a longtime resident of Davenport, said people who call the place home know what to expect.
“Checking out the view and enjoying life. Watching it under water and getting a different perspective of the same thing,” Anderson told . “It’s a beautiful day. We get to see the city. Not everyone gets this view. This is a locals-only tour.”
The flooding caused by snow melt this year does not compare to the 2019 flood, Anderson said.
“You start to get used to it. This one isn’t as bad. Last time we had some levies break and there was a little more damage. It’s not too bad,” Anderson told CNN. “Everyone was prepared. They’ve been through this before, and if you are local you know what to expect.”
Claudia Anderson, the manager of The Phoenix, a large downtown Davenport restaurant, said Monday the barriers seemed to be holding water out of the business, and sump pumps are taking out the little water that does get it.
But the restaurant cannot open, and it’s losing tens of thousands of dollars in revenue, she said. She has had to temporarily lay off about two dozen employees, including some who have no other income.
“It is what it is, we’ve gone through this, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone through the flood,” Anderson said.
The crest in the Quad Cities area in Iowa ranked in the top 10 historic crests Monday, according to the National Weather Service.
The river gauge at Rock Island, near Davenport, was cresting with water levels fairly steady around 21.4 feet Monday morning, placing it as the eighth-highest recorded at that spot.
Flood warnings continue along a long stretch of the Mississippi River from St Paul, Minnesota, to just north of St Louis, Missouri, as snow melts from a phenomenal winter season.
The recent flooding comes after areas of the Upper Midwest saw extraordinary snowfall this winter. Duluth, Minnesota, broke its highest seasonal snowfall last month, and Minneapolis recorded its third-highest season.
As the snow in the region melts, the swell of water is making its way south.
Upstream from Davenport in Dubuque, Iowa, officials closed all of its floodgates along the river last week, only the third time the gates have been closed since they were installed in 1973. Pumping stations were operating around the clock.
And farther upstream, North Buena Vista area residents were living in flooded homes, CNN affiliate KCRG reported Sunday, taking “canoes back and forth or we wade through the water,” resident Scott Blum told the station.
The Mississippi will continue cresting further south on Tuesday and Wednesday, but major flooding is not forecast for locations farther south.
A levee breach causes more flood damage
Sixty miles north of Davenport, in Green Island, Iowa, a levee breach flooded roughly 4,000 acres of a wildlife refuge and damaged nine properties, according to Jackson County Emergency Management Director Lyn Medinger.
Officials were not yet able to investigate the cause of the breach due to weather, Medinger told CNN Monday, adding authorities will likely reach the area Tuesday morning.
The region has seen powerful winds, making air transport to the area difficult
No injuries were reported and no evacuations have been made, Medinger said.
“The one breach is affecting the low-lying areas in that region,” the director added.
Just a few miles south, in the city of Sabula, the flood wall was eroded by the high winds but officials were able to stabilize the situation with sandbags and avoid flooding, Medinger said.