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89 year-old Oquawka man forced to boat to home after water flows over permanent levee

OQUAWKA, Illinois – The Mississippi River sits at 22.2 feet in Oquawka after it hit almost 23 feet over the weekend spilling over the village’s permanent earthen levee.

Bob Lafferty’s colorful Oquawka home sits in the swampy brown flood water since the river topped the levee Friday making his home an island in 12 hours.

“I can walk out the front door onto the levy and it’s high and dry, but if you walk out this side it’s water,” points out Lafferty regarding the west side of the home.

He now floats to his house by boat with two bad knees and arthritis at almost 89 years-old.  The boat was loaned to him by his friend who helps him travel to and from his home twice a day.

He thinks this mess could’ve easily been prevented.

“They couldn’t probably put in 20 extra bags of sand and that would’ve probably taken care of it,” says Lafferty. “I think there was neglect in checking the levees.”

The Village of Oquawka’s Public Works says they had people out trying to pump the water out, but it was getting too high for even the pumps to keep running.

“The river just rose too high and there wasn’t going to be much holding it back,” says Jeff Peterson of the village’s public works.

Crews also say sandbagging wasn’t a possibility since they are understaffed.

“Well if you have a crew of about 30 people and we got 3,” says Peterson. “You can always get a few more people, but it’s tough when everyone is at work.”

Lafferty is now looking for any speck of light, so his island of a home can shine along the Mississippi.

Village public work’s crews say they are waiting for the water to recede before they begin to pump water out.

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