Sure, by now you’ve been inundated with a million Peoria flood photos via Facebook, texting and the media. But in this post, you can take a virtual walk with me along the Peoria Downtown Riverfront during the actual flood crest that ends with Governor Quinn and I standing only a few feet from the high water mark as it happened. Put on your wading boots and follow me.
It’s Tuesday, just after noon. I expected to see raging waters, sand-baggers monitoring their flood-gate walls, workers furiously manning their pump machines, business owners checking in, cops keeping order, manic activity galvanizing resources as well as curious sight seekers. It’s just the opposite, there is hardly a soul to be seen. No urgent presence. There is a light rain but the water is incredibly calm, it’s eerily quiet and tranquil, almost serene and spooky at the same time. It’s like a ghost town. I see somebody down at the parking deck on the left of the above picture and head down.
At Main and Water Street there are three guys with who are working the pumps draining water out of the decks but I notice none of the pumps are on and I ask why. They’re busy and not in a talkative mood. One guy turns on a pump right in front of me and tells me to get out of the way. They don’t want to talk, give their names or have their picture taken. One of them even gives me the hand in my camera routine like he’s a celebrity. Okay, time to move on down the line.
This is the high-water mark of the crest around the Riverfront Visitors Center, it’s turned it into an island.
The Complex is a familiar sight to everyone, but being submerged, it’s not so familiar. Though the buildings are intact there is a sense of loss. There are people with real lives that are out of work indefinitely. Those are mostly restaurants out there. Bartenders, servers, dishwashers and the like are out of work for awhile, and a lot of those folks work paycheck to paycheck. That’s the spooky part of this serene landscape.
After a half hour I finally meet a friendly face. Brian Savage, and no he’s not walking the plank. He’s an engineer and we were in front of the River Station building and both of us were a little bit perplexed.
Brian’s an engineer and he pointed out that the power was still on at Martini’s. You can see the neon beer sign on the far right was still lit up along with interior lights. Mixing electricity and flood waters is a lethal cocktail and could easily start a fire. Why is it that the River Station building is appreciated and cherished by everyone except those who have operated it over the years. What a shame. Hopefully the flood won’t be the last straw for the River Station.
Here’s a shot from the steps of the Riverfront Museum. The water seems to go on forever. Time to go with the flow and head downstream a bit.
A reporter from WCBU is interviewing a couple of City workers. I was going to chat with her but it was a long interview. I admire their news style. They don’t look for sound bites they give you the whole story. Notice the little portable white tent they are under, that’ll come in handy later.
The water was up on the other side of those sandbags, which were doing their jobs. This is Frankie King and Tom Brooks, city workers on post at Liberty and Water Street keeping an eye on the wall and running a slew of pumps. They were energetic, friendly and in great spirits. A lady on a smoke break next to me who works in the building told me that “they always have fabulous smiles on their face throughout this ordeal.” The sidewalk is closed so I have to curl around the back alley.
I cruise through the alley and head to Water Street along Harrison. Like I said it was quiet and there was nobody in sight and I hear the coolest music playing. It’s coming from Café 401, they have speakers outside. Refuge from the storm.
Café 401 is a deli with what I need, hot coffee. I’ve been in the rain for over an hour and it’s time to get dry. I get a dark roast special and sit down with Alicia, the only other customer in the place. She works for an architectural firm in the building and said just about every business was open.
This was absolutely mind boggling. This is the parking lot of the Ameren building next to Hooter’s. Take a close look, there are two guys inside the vehicle which was the size of a golf cart. They work for Ameren and with that snow shovel on the front they were gliding along the edge of the river pushing the water back, which naturally had no effect at all. They kept doing it over and over. I watched in total amazement. I wanted to talk to them but they were zooming all around at breakneck speed.
That’s the Bob Michael bridge and the water should be well below those trees, and a lot lower. In the forefront those ducks all lined up in a row and a few geese were having a grand old time.
The only time all day I didn’t get rained on was when I ducked under the Bob Michael bridge and spoke with Peoria Police Officer Brett Vonderheide, who was a really nice guy. I asked him if he saw the two guys across the street in the golf cart with a snow shovel and he just rolled his eyes. He told me that Governor Quinn was expected around the corner in about a half hour. I head back to Café 401 where they have set up that portable tent that the reporter from WCBU was under. The tent is now in front of the café, how convenient. I’ll lay in wait, get dry and have some more java and listen to some good tunes.
It’s raining harder than ever as I settle into Café 401 and just as I suspected it quickly becomes the staging ground for the Governor’s visit. The first to arrive is this National Guard guy and the lady is part of the Governor’s advance team. All of a sudden, the flood gates open up and all sorts of Military, State Police, security guys in tailored suits with thick necks, media hacks, cameramen and obvious aides pop up out of nowhere and fill the Café and the street out front.
This lady was very helpful to me. She lives downtown and allowed me to take her picture but when I asked her name she replied: “call me Ms. Anonymous.” She told me that the two prior days you could make a mint selling tickets to all the sightseers on the nice, sunny days. Today was a ghost town because it was raining. It seemed appropriate to visit a flood crest while it was raining. She sheltered me with her umbrella so I could get a pic of the Governor because it was now raining cats and dogs.
It took about 15 minutes for the media types to set up for the Governor’s press conference.
The Governor comes whizzing around the corner of the alley on foot at a very brisk pace. He goes straight to about ten glad handlers lined up like the ducks in a row we saw earlier, shakes their hands quickly and heads to the microphones. He talks for three minutes and then turns things over to a FEMA rep. Photo-ops and sound bites. Should have had the reporter from WCBU work him over. In a matter of minutes he is gone and the rest of the crowd too. But Frankie and Tom stay behind with their fabulous smiles.
I had to include this picture of a light pole with its own wall of sandbags. I’m guessing that maybe those Ameren workers were responsible for it.
Downtown is back to a ghost town and I try to take a picture through this building but I end up with an obligatory MBIP self portrait.