ROCK ISLAND, Illinois -- After a record breaking flood season, the Mississippi River has finally fallen below the 13 foot "action stage." Barge traffic is moving again and riverside parks are getting the scrub down, but if all appears to be going back to normal, think again.
"One of the phrases that comes out is 100 year event, and we’ve been having 100 year events every year or every other year," said Rodney Delp, Chief of Emergency Management at the Rock Island District of the Army Corps of Engineers. "So I wouldn’t call it the new normal -- I would call it that there is no normal. It’s just that every flood is different," he said.
Land side development and runoff into the river as well as changes in weather patterns have raised the frequency and duration of the floods.
"The emergency operations center has been activated for over 100 days," said Delp. "So that does wear and drain on you when your staff is working seven days a week for that long a period," he said.
This year, temporary flood walls failed in Davenport and Burlington, both involving Hesco brand flood barriers and under investigation with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers. But Delp said we may never know exactly what happened.
"That's a very strong possibility," said Delp. "It's really hard to determine unless they were standing right there when it happened."
The flood also impacted river navigation and barge traffic. When the water gets too high, Lock and Dam systems like the one in Rock Island have to close. The rollers on Lock and Dam 15's unique roller dam go up and let the water flow.
"Then I just take them all the way up out of the water cause we know the flow that’s coming down, I’m not going to be able to hold back anything," said Lock and Dam 15 Lockmaster John Williams.
They are back down now after a record 92 days up and out of commission. When it's fully operational again, the roller dam will generate enough electricity to run Lock and Dam 15.