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Rated PG: Flood mixed with snow? Come on!

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I took a quick drive through downtown Peoria early Friday afternoon and wasn't surprised to see large piles of sand on Water Street, sand that was being put into bags and stacked atop concrete barriers in the middle of the road between Liberty and State streets.

It seems we've had quite a bit of flooding the last few years, particularly in the spring. This is the third week of April, right? We are in spring?

What I couldn't believe about the scene I was witnessing was the snow flurrying about while the Illinois River edged ever closer to spilling over the wall in that part of downtown.


But the snow and cold aside, this is going to be the mother of all floods, at least as far as Peoria is concerned. The river is expected to reach 30 feet, which would be a record.

I first realized it was going to be bad on Wednesday when I driving across the McClugage Bridge, westbound into Peoria, and looked out over the man-made island built from silt dredged from the river bottom to keep the channel open. There are still cranes and other equipment there shaping the island and when I drove past it looked like they were floating in the river. The ground beneath them was covered with water.

There is no safe place to stop and shoot pictures there or I would have done so. It was, because of the dreary weather, kind of eerie.

A lot of places are going to be affected by the flooding and some will have to close until it recedes. That includes the Heartland Partnership and Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce offices atop the concrete pad at the foot of Main Street. A footbridge was installed there after the last flood so people needing to go to the Partnership offices could get there safely, but this flood is expected to be so high it will render that bridge useless. So, those offices will be closed next week.

Martini's, the classy bar inside The River Station, is closed until at least Tuesday, depending on the flood waters. They didn't open Friday night as the flood waters crept over the wall nearby and started moving toward Water Street, as the photo taken by Ryan Simpson, a bartender at Martini's, shows.

So far, the new Riverfront Museum plans to remain open because the buildings were built above the normal flood plain. When construction was ongoing officials said it would have to be a record flood to cause problems.

Well, guess what?

Now, the only way it will be affected is if the flood gets beyond the barriers being erected and reaches well onto the lawns of the facilities and into the basements. At the Riverfront Museum that where its servers are located; those can be moved if need be but that would cause the shutdown of the building.

As far the new Caterpillar Visitors Center is concerned, Caterpillar doesn't seem concerned. Company spokesman Jim Dugan said the building sits beyond where the flood waters are supposed to reach.

The River Plex plans to stay open for its members, said Bonnie Noble, executive director of the Peoria Park District. But she is concerned that flood waters will reach into areas children use. "We may be cleaning dead fish out of there, which is not a pleasant thought," she said.

Also downtown, the condos at 401 Water are fine, but the basement storage areas and access to the parking deck its residents use might be another story, said Cathi Hawkinson, a resident there and one of The Peorian's writers. (I asked her to write a quick story about the situation but she was too busy getting stuff from her storage area of the building and carting it upstairs.)

The downtown riverfront area is not the only place affected, of course. Every place along the river is in one way or another.

That includes both side of the river. In fact, it's supposed to be bad enough that Caterpillar is shutting down its East Peoria facilities beginning Sunday morning. It said it is making plans for some personnel to work from remote locations. It said it will let the 6,800 employees affected by the action know when they can return to work.

The Illinois River isn't the only waterway being swollen by the rains, of course. As usual, Kickapoo Creek has risen to the point Peoria Speedway is under water and Farmington Road in that area is unpassable.

Smaller creeks have caused problems, as well, even in places you might not expect. Noble said some bridges along the Rock Island Pimiteoui Trail have washed out. Also, the heavy rain caused some work the Park District did in the Grandview Drive area to prevent soil erosion to wash away.

"A lot of work we have to do again. This has not been good," she said.

No, it has not. Let's be careful out there.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).