Events that shaped us 

Lyss Chiropractic
5500 30 Ave
Moline, IL 61201

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Litton Life Support
2734 Hickory Grove Rd
PO Box 4508
Davenport, IA 52808

Spencer Bros. Disposal
New Windsor, IL

Mane Designs
Viola, IL

Quad-Cities Graduate Studies Center
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Taylor Freezers 1885 Earhart Dr
Sandwich IL 60548

Milan Surplus
I-280 Exit 15
Milan, IL 61264

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Halligan-McCabe-DeVries Funeral Home Inc.
614 Main St
Davenport, 52803

Ward Chiropractic
1802 W Locust St
Davenport, IA 52804

Cannon Precision Manufacturing
PO Box 289
4th and Washington St
Keithsburg, IL 61442

Associated Environmental Management Services Inc
PO Box 586
1701 13 St
Viola, IL 61486

Edward Jones
1632 5th Avenue
Moline, IL 61265

Downtown Davenport Association
102 S. Harrison St.
Davenport, IA 52801

Donald J. McNeil, D.D.S.
1030 41st Street
Moline, IL 61265

Valley Dental Center
Dr. Margarida R. Laub
Route 6, Coal Valley, IL

Sylvan Learning Center
1035 Lincoln Road
Bettendorf, IA

Marycrest International University
1607 W 12 St
Davenport, IA 52804

St. Ambrose University
518 W Locust
Davenport, IA 52804

Palmer College of Chiropractic
1000 Brady St
Davenport, IA 52803

Augustana College
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

H & R Block
1715 W Locust St
Davenport, IA 52804

E & J
200 24 Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

American Institute of Commerce
1801 E Kimberly Rd
Davenport, IA 52807

Rock Island County Farm Bureau
1601 52 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Keithsburg residents know about flooding

By Pam Berenger, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

Click here for larger view.
In proportion to its size, the Mercer County town of Keithsburg suffered more from the 1993 flood than any place in the Quad-Cities area. The town's 936 residents, aided by volunteers from other communities, spent nearly two week reinforcing and raising its earthen levees. But the long, heroic struggle was in vain. On July 7, the day before the flood crest hit, pope creek, swolen from backwater from the Mississippi River - breache a levee and sent a wall of water rolling into town. Other breaks quickly followed, and within hours the downtown business district and more than 150 homes were under as much as 13 feet of water.
When you live in the water, you're going to get wet, lifetime Keithsburg resident Steve Nylin said.

Residents of the Mercer County town are accustomed to flooding. When the river rises above the 13-foot flood stage, it has no place to go but downtown. That's the way it's been since the city was established more than a century ago.

Until 1993, it would stay a few days then retreat to its banks. While the river was up, residents moved to higher ground or boated out.

For years, everyone pitched in to clean up, and fire department volunteers helped hose off the mud and debris, said Mr. Nylin, superintendent of the city's public works department.

``They took it on the chin and rolled with the punches,'' he said. ``People can handle things short term.''

Short term was the key to early floods, he said. Because the overflowing river came and went in a short period of time, damage was minimal.

Not that flooding always was minimal, he said. The city had its share of major flooding, especially in 1965 and 1993.

In 1965, the flood crested at 20 feet, covering the entire downtown and about a third of the city. Water was standing on 4th Street, a point it would pass in the 1993 flood, which crested there at 23 feet.

There was little attempt to fight the flood of 1965, although a few people put sandbags around businesses and homes to keep some of the mud out. The water receded within a week.

In 1993, however, the river flooded Keithsburg for more than a month, held in by a levee built to protect the city from another flood like the one in 1965. Eventually, a section of the levee was torn down to allow flood water to escape.

The levee was built by the Army Corp of Engineers as part of Operation Foresight, in anticipation of a flood in 1970. It was completed in 1969 and surrounded the city on the Pope Creek and Mississippi River sides.

It wasn't the levee that broke in 1993, allowing flood waters into town, Mr. Nylin said. The river's strong current tore through the narrow sand birm on top of the levee bordering Pope Creek.

Perhaps if the birm had been wider, or higher, or the rain had stopped, or they hadn't released more water in Coralville, Iowa, it may have been different, Mr. Nylin said. ``Who knows. There are lots of what ifs. It's nobody's fault. Nobody can control a disaster.''

The city did fight back hard in the '93 flood, however. For days, residents and volunteers worked around the clock to strengthen the levee. People from neighboring towns helped fill and stack sandbags.

The day officials realized the levee would not hold the river, residents were notified they would have to move out, quickly.

Lines of trucks pulling stock trailers followed alternate routes into the city to help people move belongings out of their homes. National Guard troops aided. It was a war zone and the river would take the town.

Marks were drawn on telephone poles, sides of homes and other objects to show where the water was expected to reach. The river did not miss its mark.

In the end, 107 properties, including 92 homes, a church and several businesses were lost because of structural damage caused by being in water too long.

Those became part of a federal buyout program. The buildings would be demolished and the property maintained as park and recreational facilities, according to Mayor Sharon Reason. Even more properties were repaired.

Floodwaters contaminated the city's well. A new one was drilled, but it took 12 days to get the required permit, dig the well and restore water to residents, Mr. Nylin said.

There was a tremendous outpouring of help for the people of Keithsburg -- neighboring residents, the Tennessee Valley Authority, a group of Mennonites, Pennsylvania firefighters, and volunteers from Canada all showed up to clean up and rebuild.

People brought stoves, refrigerators, furniture, whatever was needed, Mrs. Reason said.

Agencies like the Red Cross and Salvation Army set up stations. Amcore Bank of Aledo collected money for the city, as did other groups. ``There was so much support,'' she said.

``We had a lot of help from all over the world,'' Mr. Nylin said. ``I never thought I'd live to see that...all those people coming together, working together for a common goal.''

Despite the help, it was a depressing time for residents who saw homes and century-old buildings destroyed, Mrs. Reason said.

Four weeks after the levee broke, she walked downtown and stood at the edge of what water remained in the city. ``I knew it would be a long road back. I knew it would take at least five years to come back. I was right. Last year was the best since the flood.''

Keithsburg is rebounding, Mrs. Reason said. The Christian Church was rebuilt on higher ground, restaurants have reopened, the Keithsburg Motel expanded, two new apartment complexes opened, and a marina is being built.

A new housing addition, Keith's Landing, has lots available at $2,000 each. Only two existing homes are for sale right now, so building is about the only way to get a home in Keithsburg, Mrs. Reason said.

The river that devastated the town is what brings people to Keithsburg. It's a quiet town, with a low crime rate and a great view, Mrs. Reason said.

``People like it here,'' she said. ``More people have moved to Keithsburg than we lost after the flood. I think it's the river.''

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.