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HESCO barriers start to come down in Burlington

BURLINGTON, Iowa-- Parts of downtown Burlington are getting back to business as some HESCO barriers start to come down. It's been two weeks since the temporary barrier was breached, flooding parts of downtown.

The Mississippi River has fallen six feet since its crest earlier this month. But the river is still three and a half feet over flood stage and won't be back in its banks for at least a week.

The city's historic auditorium and Port of Burlington are still closed to the public.

But The Drake restaurant reopened Thursday.

"Health inspector came by, gave us a thumbs up, said we did everything right," owner Jim Jennison says. "Checked us out, and we're back up and running."

Jennison says there is still water in the basement but hopes he and his brothers can start cleaning up soon.

That's a common theme. Several businesses were pumping water and sewage out of their basements Friday.

City Manager Jim Ferneau says Burlington is moving forward.

"We've started to do some clean-up," he says. "Some of the cement we've been able to hose down and clean-up, but it's going to be a lengthy process over the next few weeks to get the rest of it cleaned up."

There's already an estimated one million dollars worth of damage downtown with more areas to be assessed as floodwaters recede.

Ferneau says the hesco barriers were up for 90 days, fighting the mighty Mississippi. He says HESCO believes the sand inside the structures became saturated and eventually gave way, flooding parts of downtown.

But the people living and working downtown say flooding can't throw anything at them they can't handle.

"We've done this before," Jennison says. "My brothers and I have all been around for the latest floods. '93. 2008. 2013. Now 2019."

Burlington continues work on a permanent flood wall so the city won't need to use HESCO barriers in the future. Phase one of that flood wall is complete. The next phase still needs to be designed with construction planned for spring.

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