As weather experts with the National Weather Service predict the Mississippi River will rise over the coming days, Davenport’s public works department is rebuilding the temporary flood barrier downtown to head off the possibility of future flooding.
Crews were seen assembling the barrier along River Drive on Wednesday, filling the green baskets with sand carried by dump trucks. As of Thursday afternoon, the Mississippi River was at 16.7 feet, a little less than 2 feet above flood stage. But the National Weather Service, Davenport, says with high confidence that the river could go up to at least 18 feet as soon as May 31.
The most likely crest range is 19 to 21.5 feet between May 31 and June 6, according to the Weather Service.
Meanwhile, downtown businesses continue to suffer from an event that made the record books for the region’s highest and longest river crest in history. Several have gutted their buildings, relocated temporarily, delayed their openings or shut down for good.
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The temporary flood wall, manufactured by U.K.-based company HESCO, breached on April 30 under conditions city officials have described as “unprecedented,” sending water through the heart of downtown. Caught by surprise, roughly 30 people were rescued by emergency officials in the wake of the disaster.
HESCO has said its internal investigation found that the April breach was not caused by a structural fault of the barrier itself. The receded floodwaters now show the road remained intact despite the flood, suggesting the Mississippi River rose above the flood barrier. Footage from nearby security cameras on the day of the disaster also showed water spilling over the barrier's top.
During an interview earlier this week, Davenport Public Works Director Nicole Gleason said Davenport was exploring the possibility of rebuilding the wall as a precautionary measure. She said the city would measure its flood-fighting approach as information from the National Weather Service becomes available, saying residents and businesses impacted at between 18- and 20-foot crests should keep notice of forecasts and updates on the city’s website.
"It is really gonna be a day-to-day decision,” Gleason said. “We have the sand in the dump trucks, we have the temporary flood barrier on our flatbed trucks, so basically from the moment we say ‘go,’ all of our streets crews will get diverted off of their other work and go do that wall installation, which will generally take a single 12-hour shift with the entire department.”
“Because it’s such a time intensive activity and such an expensive activity we don’t want to set it unless we absolutely have to,” she added.