The powerful energy our river provides is often underestimated until the waters begin to rise. The beginning of our spring proved this to be true, contributing to record flooding in Nebraska, and challenging historic levels in Iowa. Where I am located, in Alton, Illinois, we are looking to crest at 35.5 feet on May 4, which is just seven feet shy of our record crest in 1993, 42.2 feet. Hoses line downtown Alton where restaurants/bars are pumping water out of their flooded basements, which overflow into the streets. One local chef noted there were minnows swimming beneath his feet as he was saving product from the restaurant’s basement. Following the River Road from Alton to Grafton, it is completely submerged, along with many of the local businesses and restaurants/bars along the river of the quaint village. Grafton does not take any action, such as levees or flood walls, but rather allows the river to swell naturally. Their tourism depends on the close connection and ambiance the Mississippi River has to offer. These are crucial moments for our levees, farmlands, routes of transportation, and especially those who have homes/businesses in the floodplain.
Preparing for a flood ahead of time:
your home town’s flood risks
- Visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center
- Identify where you/pets will go ahead of time
- Keep an emergency first aid kit in your car
- Shut off water/gas/electric only if you have time!
- Wear sturdy shoes/clothing
- Consider back up batteries for devices you made need (radios/cellphones/etc)
- Let friends/family know where you are going
higher ground, even the roof if necessary!
- Attics can close you in
NOT walk, swim, or drive through flood waters
- 6 inches of moving water can knock you down
- 1 foot of moving water can sweep your car away
- EVACUATE!! If told to do so ahead of time
- Stay off bridges over fast moving water, they can be washed away abruptly
After the flood:
- Return home only when authorities state it is safe
- Wear boots/gloves when cleaning up, as wildlife could have ended up in your home
- Be aware of electrical equipment to avoid shock
- Avoiding wading in floodwater as there could be dangerous debris or contamination
Flooding is the most common natural disaster. Many of us have been, or known someone affected by flooding. Implementing natural infrastructure, such as wetlands and floodplains, along the river is a necessary flood practice. Natural infrastructure produces habitat for wildlife to flourish, as well as reducing the cost of post-flood damage to homes/businesses. Nutrient pollution, stimulated by the overuse of fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus, is primarily caused by agricultural runoff. These nutrients make their way to the Gulf of Mexico, causing one of the largest “Dead Zones“, in which no aquatic life can survive due to the overgrowth of toxic algae, and depletion of oxygen in the water. Natural infrastructure will assist in filtering these nutrients out, leading to a healthier river and Gulf. If you own a home or business in a floodplain, PLEASE make sure waste, chemicals such as fertilizers/pesticides, and litter are protected from entering our river during flooding. It is important we protect the Mississippi River by being prepared for flooding risks in our area.
-Kristen Mertz, 1Mississippi Outreach Assistant based in Alton, IL.
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