Since I've lived in Quincy more than 20 years, you would think I would be used to flooding.
Every time a disaster like the one our region is enduring unfolds, I still can't believe it's real. It's something I would expect to watch on some old movie on late-night TV.
But it's not make-believe. It's right here in West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri.
And it's real. Very, very real.
I would guess most reading this have some sort of tie -- via property, friend or relative -- that has been affected by the overflowing Mississippi River.
My wife, Kathy, and I have spent considerable time in recent days driving where we could on both sides of the river. There were extended periods when no words were mentioned in the car. Both of us were aghast at the incredible amount of water -- and damage -- we were seeing.
Like many others, just about every member of our family in Quincy has spent time helping fill sandbags, and that includes grandkids as young as 8 years old. Everyone wanted to try and help in some fashion.
Personally, this is the most widespread natural disaster I have ever seen, and thoughts of it continue to stay with me. Here are some of the impressions I wrote down as Kathy and I have journeyed through the region:
º The up-close-and-personal viewing of the Clemens Field area of Hannibal, Mo., was astonishing. Until visiting that scene, I had no idea how much water had swallowed up that area, plus nearby neighborhoods that had been evacuated. It was absolutely heartbreaking. How widespread the damage actually was could be seen in even greater detail from the Lovers Leap area above the city.
º The downtown area of LaGrange, Mo., was borderline unbelievable. I have seen that area underwater numerous times in the past, but never to this depth. How do you even begin to recover from an act of nature such as this? The nearby Mark Twain Casino area was another eye-opener, with the water level as high as the street signs.
º We drove by the entrance of Wakonda State Park in Northeast Missouri and saw officials stationed at the entrance to make sure no one got too close, which was unlikely since the water had reached within a few yards of the entrance. Later, I saw aerial views of the park area, and it was hard to comprehend that much of the area being underwater.
º Obviously, Kathy and I did not make it to every area of West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri. We relied on pictures from various sources to get a glimpse of some of the Missouri sites such as Clarksville, Louisiana and Alexandria, plus Illinois grounds in and near Marblehead, Hamilton and other nearby river communities.
When the water finally recedes, the recovery will be long and challenging. Unfortunately, it may be awhile before all of that water dissipates -- and even longer before thousands of lives return to any sense of normalcy.