Keithsburg prepares for flooding headed its way

KEITHSBURG, Illinois-- Cities south of the Quad Cities are preparing for the floodwaters headed their way down the Mississippi River. In the City of Keithsburg, the river is just feet away from the top of the levee.

"The last few days we've been checking our levee every two or three hours," Keithsburg Fire Chief Jeremy Malcom says. "It's getting to the point now where we're gonna have to keep an eye on it 24 hours a day. The water just keeps coming up."

Chief  Malcom says city and fire department crews have to look for weak spots in the levee and anywhere water is seeping through.

They've already piled three feet of sand on top of the levee in low spots. Sandbags sit on standby nearby.

"(The levee is) 90 percent majority sand," Chief Malcom says. "It takes no time for (the river) to wash it out. It just grows and grows and grows until it just blows it plum out. I think once the water starts running, I don't think you could ever stop it."

He says the greatest fear is the river rising far enough to topple over the levee. He says it's a possibility with the rain and flooding on Pope Creek.

The anticipation has brought people to the river's edge for a first-hand look.

"Soon as I get off work this is what I do. Get out and stop at each stop and take some pictures," James Albert says. "Checking in on the water levels. You gotta keep an eye on everything. Just making sure we're not getting too high."

If the levee is overtopped, it's expected to submerge the low-lying areas of town. People have been sandbagging, even piling up mountains of sand along the walls of their businesses. People have been told to be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice. Sirens will sound if the river starts spilling over.

Yet the town that's been flooded before has learned from its past. Chief Malcom says most homes in the floodplain were bought out by FEMA and demolished.

"It's a hassle," he says. "It's a pain in the butt to everyone. But you choose to be by the river, you choose to deal with what it gives us."

The Mississippi River is expected to crest sometime Thursday morning on May 3. It'll be more than two feet shy of the 2008 record.

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