Water surrounds rec center at 24 feet

The Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department is as ready as it can be for the major flood crest forecasted for the river community this weekend.

After years of frequent floods, the seasoned department members have developed a checklist to follow ahead of rising, brown water.

"We have pretty much got (flood preparation) down to a science," Parks Department Director Andy Dorian said. "We are pretty much used to it. We don't panic and get too upset anymore."

Preparations began Monday before the floodgates were installed.

"We got everything out yesterday on the river side (of the floodwall) that we needed to get out like picnic tables and trash cans," Dorian said.

Some of the decorative fencing remained in place, but Dorian said there is still time to take ATVs in and haul out the fencing if the projected crest is revised significantly higher.

Another focal point is the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center, which stands just feet from Bear Creek. Water surrounds the stone structure when the river reaches 24 feet. Any higher, and water begins to flow in the building's back doors.

Items were moved from the center Tuesday morning to an upper level of the building, or to higher ground at the Parks Department's shop located outside the floodplain.

Once the water recedes, it usually doesn't take long before the popular facility is ready for use again.

"We will hose everything off and open it back up," Dorian said. "We can have the armory open in a day or two after we get a pretty good flood."

At this time of year, the rec center is typically booked seven days a week. Events scheduled there the remainder of this week have even been canceled or moved to alternate sites. A wedding is scheduled for next week, as well as other bookings.

"I'd hate to get that news on short notice that they couldn't have their wedding in the place they had booked," Dorian said. "It's kind of the gamble you take down there, although October floods are not something that we normally deal with. This is kind of an unusual situation."

While the department's is initial focused on the riverfront and rec center, other parks in low-lying areas are not forgotten.

"We look at all our flood-prone areas and make sure anything that could be damaged is removed," Dorian said. "When we have a major flood anymore, other than cleanup, we really don't have any other issues because we have planned ahead of time."