Flood left its mark on businesses, properties
Record flooding last spring left its mark, literally, on the Illinois Valley Yacht and Canoe Club in the form of a high water mark left after more than three feet of water inundated the clubhouse.
A year later, the club is no worse for wear, said Paul Kelley, the IVY Club’s general manager. And that’s due in large part to the skill of several members as well as the water’s gradual rise.
“We have a number of people who are contractors and a former commodore who is an architect,” he said. “There are a lot of people in the building trades, so when we rebuilt, we used a lot of materials which are flood-proof.”
Heavy rains in early April caused the Illinois River to swell to levels never seen before. It crested at 29.35 inches in Peoria and completely surrounded the IVY clubhouse, covering its pool and parking lots. The result was a muddy mess and a need to gut the lower floor of the building, Kelley said.
The typical drywall seen in many modern buildings is gone and replaced with stone and concrete walls. There’s new tile and new flooring in the kitchen that is more flood-resistant, as well.
Water-covered streets in the Rome and Chillicothe areas forced several homeowners to sandbag. Some fended off the water, others saw water fill their homes.
Matt Wahl, director of Peoria County’s Planning and Zoning Department, said 165 properties were affected along that stretch of the river.
Roughly 20 of those opted for buyouts. A handful of people have chosen to elevate their homes using a rider contained in many flood insurance policies that pays for homes to be raised above the flood zone.
They included Sheri and Joe Clevenger, whose house in the 15000 block of Front Street in Chillicothe never had been flooded until last year. Sheri Clevenger’s still emotional about the “whole mess” a year later, saying last summer was very stressful. Fortunately, she was able to move into her-then boyfriend’s and now husband’s house.
“So we were lucky, but there are a lot of people who didn’t have that,” she said. “It’s is going to get better, but still we have two mortgages now and two insurances. It’s hard, but it’ll get better.”
She said the notion that people can get brand-new homes with flood insurance money isn’t true. Rather, she said, her mortgage on the Front Street house forced her to repair the home and then raise it nearly 10 feet.
“What was I supposed to do? When you have a mortgage, you have to fix the house. What should I have done, just walk away and let it go into repo?” she asked.
Wahl said some people opted to do just that.
“They are those who haven’t done a thing and might be in violation of local ordinances,” he said. “We are trying to work with them. A few have just abandoned their properties due to financial reasons.”
Over the years, Peoria County has acquired about 120 properties up and down Illinois Route 29 during a 16-year period ending in 2003. That land remains undeveloped with the idea that it gives the river room to flood and that could reduce flooding downstream.
“The federal money that is used for those buyouts has a stipulation that the property has to remain as open space for eternity. And if it is going to be utilized for public use, then any change must be approved by the federal government.
While the damage seemed extreme at the IVY Club, Kelley said they had the bar opened for Memorial Day weekend and the dining room by Fourth of July. The offices on the top floor were finished in February.
“We knew it was going to flood, so between the staff and the members, we were able to move all the contents upstairs or out of the area. That really minimized the loss,” he said.
But the flood also gave the club something it had lost, as well.
“An old part of the club with a fire place dating back to the 1940s was opened up and has now been restored,” Kelley said.
Sheri Clevenger said she hopes to be back into her home by the end of the summer and recoup some money by putting her husband’s house on the market.
“We are going to be OK, but it’s still stressful,” she said.