Robert Cole was at Eysal’s Coffee Roasters getting coffee early Tuesday morning. It wasn’t long before he was back for another cup.
Cole is the city’s director of buildings and public property and coffee was giving him fuel April 23 ever since the Illinois River spilled from its banks last week.
With the flooding in East Peoria, Cole, as well as other city staff, have been very busy. Cole worked from 6:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. April 22.
“All weekend we’ve been average eight to 10 hours, 12 hours,” Cole said.
The biggest concern, Cole said, was to protect the city’s dispatch center and residents.
In addition, Cole has been attending daily meetings and making the necessary arrangements for them, such as getting tables and chairs set up, getting trailers set up, assessing electronic and generator needs and working with police and fire, among other tasks.
“It was during the event, I think it was last Wednesday when we started getting the largest rain.
We went into building protection,” Cole said.
City officials began communicating and planning.
“Protecting city facilities was top on our radar, making sure the city could still operate,” Cole said, as well as protecting lives.
As public works geared up with their plans, Cole and his team began their operations plan.
“Our end was obviously to keep the facilities operational. We had sandbagged Friday night. Sunday we asked .... for volunteers to come down and help fill sandbags. We got roughly around 500 of them filled. We put about 100 in front of the police station ... just in case. Our biggest concern at that point was to make sure dispatch was still operational,” Cole said.
Regarding residents, Cole said four homes on Kaitlin Court and Sunnybrook Drive had to be evacuated and utilities shut off after a landslide this week.
Residents in the Richland Farms area were notified with flood information door to door.
“Mayor Mingus was down in the Richland area going door to door, handing them the news release personally. It was a voluntary evacuation notice,” Cole said.
However, residents were also instructed that if the city’s emergency sirens went off, they would need to evacuate immediately, Cole said.
According to information provided by the city this afternoon, the “Illinois River is at 29.35 feet in East Peoria with the crest expected sometime today, and the city’s levee continues to be in good shape.”
Cole said the city’s planning and execution has been very fluid.
“We have pumps on our auxiliary, waiting if this thing is breached. We do not want dispatch compromised period, or city hall,” Cole said.
After receiving positive news from the Army Corps of Engineers Sunday about the city’s levee, Cole said they are still walking the levee 24/7.
Page 2 of 2 - “We’re just kind of waiting for everything to crest, just waiting for it to recede with the rains today and watching tomorrow,” Cole said.
“We're making sure our plan is well executed and followed through from the beginning to the end.”
This year’s flooding incident has been a new experience for city officials because of the record amount of water. Cole said their reactions and actions are implemented after “triggers.”
“A lot of this is waiting for triggers. ... We can have the engineers tell us, but until you go through this... This is a record level since the ‘40s,” he said.