Photo by Miriah Haring
The Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau recognized the city of Alton with the Alton CVB’s Above and Beyond award for its efforts to save downtown during the recent flooding. (From left) CVB Chairperson Ann Badasch, Alton Mayor Brant Walker, Public Works Director Robert Barnhart, Fire Chief Bernie Sebold and Illinois Office of Tourism Director Cory Jobe.
ALTON — When the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau awarded the city of Alton for its efforts during the recent flooding at the 12th annual Tourism Summit, the recognition brought a standing ovation from the crowd.
“The day after Christmas, when we were all still throwing away the wrapping paper, the rains started,” Alton CVB President and CEO Brett Stawar said. “It was incredible speed, as the Corps of Engineers can verify. Never have I seen a flash flood rise so fast.”
Unlike the Flood of 1993, the waters between Christmas and New Year’s rose extremely quickly, catching many in the region off guard. Downtown, as businesses were scrambling to save equipment and furniture on the lower levels, the city was constructing a barrier hundreds of feet long, wrapped in plastic and surrounded by sandbags, to keep the water at bay.
“I must acknowledge the city of Alton for what they have done,” Stawar said. “Thanks to the visionary insight of Public Works Director Bobby Barnhart and the innovation of the whole team at the Public Works Department, they created this concrete barrier to protect Downtown.
“One day we were talking about how to save Grafton, and then all of a sudden it rushed down here and we were talking about how to save Downtown.”
Thousands of volunteers were at work at all hours of the day and night, including city leaders, business owners, residents from other areas of the city, and even other area municipalities.
Alton Fire Chief Bernie Sebold, who Stawar referred to as the area’s “natural disaster king,” also was recognized for his department’s efforts pumping the water from the Downtown district.
With the water cresting at 35.7 feet, it missed the record of more than 42 feet in 1993, becoming the fourth-highest flood on record.
“It was quite a flood,” Mayor Brant Walker said. “There was a lot involved, not only from the city standpoint, but a lot of you in this room came out to help. Without the volunteers, we would not have been able to put this wall up as quickly as we did — literally in one day.
“I want to thank the community for coming together. It is truly an honor to be the mayor of Alton. When this city is down, it comes together like no place I have ever seen.”
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