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The Mississippi River Flood Affects the Ambrose Community

With roads opening back up, and flood barriers coming down, life is slowly returning to normal in the downtown areas of the Quad Cities. On May 1, the Mississippi River crested at 21.5 feet, earning it a spot in the top 10 list of Quad Cities Mississippi River floods. However, officials say that flood mitigation strategies have made for an easier recovery. 

A multitude of news outlets across the country have highlighted the damaging effects the flood poses on local businesses, but members of the St. Ambrose community have also been subject to its ramifications. Those who understand the social culture of St. Ambrose realize how devastating the closure of businesses downtown can be to those who enjoy them. It is common to see Ambrosian students and staff supporting the small businesses along the Mississippi River, and the flood has made it increasingly more difficult for the community to do so. Senior Olivia Wright is just one of many students who feel the flood’s impact. 

“The Diner on River Drive is one of my favorite places to grab brunch on the weekends. I wanted to go with some friends not long ago but we remembered everything was closed off. I feel worse for the owners though, I’m sure they lost a lot of business,” she said. 

Students who work by the river also felt the flood’s consequences. Emma Gorden, a first-year Occupational Therapy student, serves and bartends at Rock Island Brewing Company (RIBCO) on Second Avenue. She says that road closures may have resulted in fewer customers. 

“I think the people who normally cross the river were scared to actually drive over once they saw how high the water had gotten. We are still seeing our Rock Island regulars, but I have missed the people that come over from the Iowa side,” she said. 

Driving across the river is not the only issue noted by Ambrosians. Communications instructor and Moline resident Liz Lareau noted the increase in traffic as a result of road closures caused by high water levels. 

“Traffic has just been insane. The closure of River Drive has added probably 10 to 15 extra minutes to my commute. That may not seem like a lot for people that live in the city, but people who live farther out are used to a shorter drive,” she said. 

River Drive was closed, and city organizers constructed temporary sand-filled barriers to prevent some of the damage to the surrounding businesses. According to The Rock Island Argus, this barrier subsequently closed off the area of River Drive that connects the cities of Davenport and Bettendorf. 

While some found this “flood wall” to be a nuisance, others think a similar structure should have been made permanent ages ago. Dr. Jim Baumann, professor of communications, said that he thinks a permanent flood barrier would save the city a significant amount of damage-control spending in the long run. 

“I think a levy or flood wall should have been built a long time ago. At this point, city officials are aware of the damage posed to surrounding businesses,” he said. 

This year’s flooding of the Mississippi has been caused by record ice and snow melt from Minnesota and Wisconsin. This, on top of spring rainfall, acts as a contributor to the rising water levels that threaten this stretch of the river. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the large amount of snow that occurred during the winter months trickled southward, resulting in abnormally high water levels. While this is not the highest level of flooding the area has seen in recent years, the event still made national headlines as local businesses were forced to close their doors. 

The most serious case of Mississippi River flooding occurred in 2019 as the water reached a record-high level of 22.7 feet, according to the National Weather Service. The city did attempt to establish a temporary barrier, but it was unsuccessful in terms of keeping the downtown area above water. KWQC televised news reports showed that water had torn through the flood wall, resulting in substantial damage to property in the surrounding area. Earlier this month, city organizers began to remove the barriers that successfully contained the flood and welcomed traffic to River Drive once again. Even though water levels are going down, Quad City residents may not be completely in the clear. According to KWQC, post-flood events led to a discovery of a sinkhole on Brady Street and River Drive. Quad Cities residents are advised to stay alert and remain cautious while traveling near the river.