What a difference a few days makes in Old Town Eureka.
Businesses that were moving out and preparing for devastation earlier in the week spent much of Wednesday moving back in.
“Today we’ve been concentrating on getting the store back together,” said Karen Bopp, the owner of Red Door Liquor and Cigars.
Bopp said she was expecting to take on water based on the projected crest level of the Meramec River.
But she’s thankful that nothing significant happened. And now, they’re getting ready to reopen for business on Thursday.
“I think it’s important to let everyone know something like this isn’t going to stop us,” she said.
The river ended up cresting Tuesday at 10:15 p.m. with a new record of 46 feet 11 inches.
By Wednesday evening, floodwaters had already fallen several feet, exposing much of South Central Avenue that was previously submerged.
“We’d be walking in water here that would at least be equal to our knees,” said Scott Barthelmass, the Public Information Officer for the Eureka Fire Protection District.
So what made all the difference this time around?
Barthelmass said many lessons were learned from the winter floods of 2015.
“We had 300,000 sandbags on the ground here in Eureka,” he said, adding that they were stacked much higher.
But it wasn’t just having more sandbags that did the trick.
Barthelmass said there was much stronger community support coming from all over region.
“I think people had it in them that they weren’t going to lose their town. It was a true spirit of St. Louis,” he said.
That, and time, according to some business owners who were spared the devastation they saw previously.
“We did learn a lot, but we had three days to get a plan. We had 10 hours last time,” said Dr. Tim Baylard, the owner of Maximum Chiropractic.
Baylard said he took on two feet of water during the last big flood, prompting a total build-out of his business.
This time? Baylard said hardly anything happened because the city was better prepared and the volunteers were more determined.
“The business owners were here, but we were taking care of our own things. Without the community, it would have been wrecked again,” he said.
Now in Old Town, you’ll see several signs thanking all the volunteers for helping out when it was needed the most.
And for Bopp, that’s the true meaning of “Eureka Strong!”
Clean up efforts will continue in Old Town on Thursday morning. Volunteers are needed to come help clear out all the sandbags.
Barthelmass said about 50 homes and 15 businesses sustained some level of minor to major damage. He said they were in more isolated locations and closer to the river than the business district.