The City of Alton is at risk of a major flood. Low-lying areas are already under water, and the water is going to keep rising.
The predicted crest of the Mississippi was raised Thursday from 33.5 feet to 35 feet. That’s the difference between a moderate and major flood. The river isn’t expected to crest until overnight Saturday into Sunday morning, a full day later than originally projected.
“We’re 16 feet above what we consider normal for the river," Alton Mayor Brant Walker said. "And this will put Alton at its 5th top 10 flood within the past 4 years, and this will be a number six flood event for our city.”
In Alton’s business district, pumps were keeping the river out of Morrison’s Irish Pub. New Muscle Wall barricades blocked the shops and restaurants from the rising river below. The wall is made up of hollow, plastic sections that clip together and fill with water to weigh them down.
The mayor said they're a more cost effective option, and just as strong, as the concrete walls utilized in previous floods. Walker says the next challenge will come if the river hits 36 feet.
“We will have to bring in the old block concrete barriers," he said, "because we do not have enough of the Muscle Wall product purchased. So we may see issues of accommodation with the new technology with the stuff we’ve been using for decades. We’re starting to get those prepared and bringing them downtown and getting them staged.”
Over at the Argosy Casino, crews were busy constructing an access road to bypass the flooded parking lot. The Alton marina also remained closed, due to a flooded parking lot.
With so many floods over the past few years, Walker says it’s been a huge drain on city resources. The December 2015 flood, for example, cost over $100,000 in materials alone, and that money comes directly from the city’s general fund.
“When the general fund goes down, then you look at well, what services get cut?" he said. "Do you cut as much grass as you should, do you fix as many streets as you possibly should, so those are all budgetary considerations. So when there’s less money in the general fund, there’s just less things we can do.”