Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ottawa, IL, 2008 and 2013 Floods

When I was taking pictures of the railroad bridge over the Illinois River in Ottawa, I took pictures from the same location to record the empty, flat flood plane. The hill in the distance is the grade separation between the rest of the town and this area. This area struck me as strange. To add to the strangeness, there was a oval track for running to my left along the railroad. Normally, tracks are next to schools. And I wondered why there were ribbons of concrete in the grass.

Later, when I looked at a satellite image of the area, I got an answer --- there used to be buildings here. Some Googling determined it was the Central Intermediate School that was built in the 1950s.
The sandbagging efforts to protect the school from the September 2008 flood (video) were not successful. The 405 5th- and 6th-graders were moved to other school and church buildings. They considered options such as building a levee as was done for their high school or raising the building. But these would leave it inaccessible during floods, as had already happened eleven times since it was built. But these options became moot in February 2009 when the school was condemned. (IASB)
“Once the water receded, asbestos was discovered in the crawl space and the floors because it dissolved when it got wet,” said George Reigle, an architect with GreenAssociates, who had been working with the district on clean-up and restoration plans.   “They also found bacteria in the dirt in the crawl space and mold in the wood on the first floor.”  In addition, because it had been built on the site of an old coal gasification plant, other chemicals were found on the school property. “This was going to take more than a mop and clean-up,” Reigle said. (IASB)
They leased an empty Wal-Mart building until a new school building was ready by January 2012. (IASB)

Ottawa then bought the land to tear down the building and create green space. So when the 2013 flood happened, video, they did not have to sandbag the building because it was already scheduled to be torn down. (The 2013 flood is the one that caused the Marseilles Dam accident.)

An IDOT picture of the road bridge includes a picture of the Central Intermediate School in the middle of that grassy area on the left.

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