July 29, 2010

Flood averted!

The city issued the following press release Thursday:  

City Shines Bright Amidst Mother Nature’s Havoc

RACINE – Facing a potential flood crisis over the weekend due to heavy area rains, city officials and department heads gathered in Mayor John Dickert’s office late last Friday morning to lay out a plan of action.

As the meeting dispersed, the sun poked its head out, ever so slightly, through the rain clouds – the rays of sunshine were a sign of things to come.

“When this city is challenged it stands up together to meet the challenge,” Dickert said. “This city and its residents really came through in shining fashion. In fact, I’m not sure it’s ever shined brighter. I honestly believe there isn’t another city in this country which could beat the collective effort our residents put up last weekend. I’m very proud of our city.”

The havoc Mother Nature was trying to create was due in part to the seven inches of rain that had hit the Milwaukee area last Thursday night. The forecast at the time of the meeting in Mayor Dickert’s office was for more heavy rains in the area on Friday and Saturday. Root River was predicted to reach flood levels over the weekend and the memories of the flood of 2008 seemed to be in the back of everyone’s minds.”

During the meeting, Rick Jones, Commissioner of the Department of Works, carefully explained the plan which would be put in motion that day to police, fire, parks and recreation, health, and water and wastewater officials.

The plan had several different stages to it depending on the levels the flood waters would reach with each stage having well-laid out plans of additional action. It was quickly made available on the front page on the city website - www.cityofracine.org.

When the meeting ended the immediate concern was for 20-25 houses along the west side or Parkway Drive. There was also some concern for houses at the end of Liberty Street, along Domanik Drive, and at the far end of Luedtke Avenue by Rupert Blvd. The DPW immediately delivered sand and sandbags to the concerned areas.

Next, Chief Kurt Wahlen and his Police Department and Chief Steve Hansen and his Fire Department began delivering brightly-colored instructions in both English and Spanish to the households that could be in danger.

“The plan and the cooperation and teamwork between all the departments involved and the general public made what could have been a difficult situation a lot easier,” said Chief Hansen. “There was a tremendous amount of cooperation involved and a lot of teamwork.”

The police department also made calls to the homes in those areas relaying the DPW’s message.

“The DPW’s plan was exceptional,” said Chief Wahlen, echoing Chief Hansen’s comments. “Everything was laid out. Everything they said would happen at certain levels, happened. All we had to do was monitor it. The plan was exceptional and so was the cooperation, as well as the teamwork.”

As the house-to-house notifications began, Mayor Dickert, along with 11th District Alderman Greg Helding - Chairman of Public Works and Services and 12th District Aldermen Aron Wisneski - Chairman of Public Safety and Licensing, held a press conference with CAR25, the Journal Times and WRJN/Light rock 92.1 to further distribute information and assure the public the city was on top of things and a plan was already being put into operation.

Later on Friday, the Mayor and 8th District Aldermen Q.A. Shakoor II also went door-to-door speaking to the people whose homes could be in danger.

“We were very proactive and everything was very positive,” Alderman Shakoor said. “The city and the people worked well together. And that’s what it is all about. In order for this city to be successful it takes people, house by house, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, working together and that’s what we saw last weekend. That was the beauty of it.”

The Mayor also visited certain areas with 6th District Alderman Sandy Weidner. In all, Mayor Dickert visited the potentially troubled areas three times on Friday, four times on Saturday, and three times on Sunday.

“What I saw last weekend was truly inspirational, “Dickert added. “I saw people of every race, creed, and color, people ages 7 – 70, from all walks of life, helping with the sandbags. I saw people come down whose homes weren’t in danger to help those whose homes were.”

Mayor Dickert also pointed out that Rick Jones not only put in place a great plan, but he was among those who helped fill sandbags along with union workers who came to help even though they were off the clock.

“I keep saying we are becoming known as the City of Partnerships – creating new and valuable partnerships with those outside our community and strengthening the partnerships we have within our community , “Dickert said. “The partnerships we have within our community and the teamwork we have created as a result was never more evident than last weekend.”

Unfortunately, the city did miss one house, located on Spring Street, which had already begun to take on the brunt of the rising waters before the city arrived.

“I’ll be the first to admit we were not aware of one house which was at a low level,” Dickert said. “But as soon as we found out about it we were over there doing everything we could to help,” Dickert said.”I talked to them personally (owners – Jim and Kim Marcotte) until 11:00 pm Saturday and they seemed relieved we were there working with them, their friends and neighbors, although it doesn’t make the flooding any easier.”

The city did catch a break as the weekend progressed, the additional five inches of rain that was predicted for Milwaukee on Friday never developed, the seven inches that hit the Chicago area on Friday night stayed well south of Racine, and despite the possibility of additional heavy rains predicted, after noon on Friday, the city only got some light showers early Saturday morning and a sprinkle later that night.

“I had the utmost confidence in all the departments involved and that the plan we had in place would help us meet whatever developed,” Dickert said. “I just kept telling people ‘Pray it doesn’t rain.” Thank God He was listening to our prayers.”

Perhaps that was the best partnership of all over last weekend as it certainly aided in Racine being able to shine as a community.

The community has the ability to shine again this week as an organized cleanup will take place on Saturday from 12-2 pm. Interested volunteers should meet at Water Substation on Parkview Drive just off of West Sixth Street.