CASEYVILLE, Ill. – A Caseyville levee break not only led to flooded homes, but it also forced a nursing home evacuation. Residents say the levee would have held if it weren’t for a weakness now being analyzed by emergency responders.
It’s an old railroad bridge, long abandoned. Residents say they’ve warned officials for years to do something about it so they’re not flooded in the future.
In the neighborhood below, the constant sound of street sweeping dominates the air. You’re surrounded by trailers with their skirts pushed in from floodwater and vehicles drying out.
“A lot of people didn’t even know the levee broke in Caseyville,” resident Billy Hayes said.
Many in Illinois feel forgotten; still waiting on federal assistance. That’s why local emergency management agencies are assessing damaged areas with FEMA.
St. Clair County Emergency Management Director Herb Simmons was among those going door-to-door to meet with Caseyville residents.
“I believe we’re putting together a good argument,” he said. “That’s why we’re out here again.”
Residents want action on what they say is a possible cause.
“It’s gonna happen again,” Hayes said.
Hayes took us to a spot he says everyone knows is the culprit.
“People in this area have known about this levee problem and the trestle problem for over 30 years and they haven’t done anything about it,” he said.
Hayes pointed to an abandoned railroad bridge that clogs with debris. He said it acts like a dam. It runs through a levee he believes is already poorly maintained and is threatened more by the old trestle that clogs and impedes proper flow.
“That water’s got to go somewhere,” Simmons said.
“They need to do something about it before it becomes a bigger problem. In 2019, it clogged up and caused a major problem there and this time here, so we made a report to IEAM. They reached out to IDNR and then IDNR is trying to reach out to the railroad people.”
Finding who’s responsible, Simmons says, could be the biggest challenge, because it’s been abandoned for so long.
“That’s why we shot it out up the line, to the state to say, ‘Hey, can you get us some help to get this mitigated?’” Simmons said.
Flash flooding on July 26 led to water rising so fast that it forced the evacuation of a nursing home in the shadow of the levee. It was a dramatic reaction that residents and emergency responders hope to avoid if they can finally get action on the decades-old problem.
“We never would have gotten flooded out,” Hayes said.