The Green Tree Inn of Elsah

Front entrance of house painted dark red with white trim

Historic Flooding 2019

Red Building with sign Green Tree Inn on side, white stairs covered with water, Trees surrounding floodded street.

2019 was the year we had anxiously awaited.  Gary was going to retire in January and we would both be working at the Inn full-time.  The wedding gazebo was complete and we were ready to host weddings.  We attended a PAII (Professional Association of Innkeepers International) conference in January and made the decision to get a new reservation system and a brand-new website.  This was going to be our year.  But Mother Nature and the Mighty Mississippi had other plans.

January and February were cold and dreary.  The weather was bad so guest reservations dropped off.  That was fine – I used the time to work on our new website and reservation system.  In March, the water started to rise.  By the end of March, the river level is above 24 feet which means the lower level of the entrance into the Village is now under water.  (Anything over 18 feet is considered in flood stage.)  The water continues to rise.  I become obsessed with the National Weather Service website that shows the river levels.  This graph is updated every hour with the actual flood level and twice a day with the newest projected crest.

The water continues to rise and our guest reservations continue to plummet.  We then have the 1st crest in April.  We have been warned there is a chance of another crest.  So, we wait and watch.  The water starts to go down and we take a breath.  Our Spring Festival is scheduled for mid-May, we have worked hard on the festival preparations.  But we make the determination to postpone the festival in fear of another crest.

Then when we think the river is going down, the river quickly started coming back up. We learn that when the river level reaches 31 feet our septic system becomes inoperable.  Gary and I use the restrooms next door at the museum.  We have to limit our water usage or risk having the septic system back up into our residence.  What guests we do have scheduled we have to cancel since we can’t use our septic system.  Our first wedding we had scheduled in our new gazebo is cancelled.   Once again, we wait and watch.  I am checking the river level graph on a regular basis.  It rains, the river level projected crest continues to change.  There are 12 days that we do not have septic service.  The River then crests at 32.1 on May 7.  At this time, it was the 4th worst flood on record.

Finally, the river starts to recede.  Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching and everyone is excited that it appears the River Road will be open for the Memorial Day weekend.  The River Road was open for 4 days.  The River again begins to rise with a vengeance!  By the morning of Memorial Day, the River Road is now closed again and our septic system in operable again!

Once again, we wait and watch.  The river will not crest until June 7.  At one point, the crest was projected to be within 6 inches of entering our residence.  We watch the water enter our friends and neighbors’ residences.  We watch Mill Street disappear as the Mighty Mississippi marches down the street.  The Village Post Office is closed.  There is water over the street on the only way out of the village.  We wait and watch.  We watch the water come up the steps of our residence.  We stand on our front porch and watch the fish and the snakes and the debris float by us.  Everything has already been moved out of the basement.  We then make the decision to pack up all our belongings on the bottom floor of our residence.  The furniture is moved to the garage and everything else is packed in totes and moved upstairs.

Once we realize can’t prevent getting water in the basement of the Inn, Gary fixes it so the water from the shower in Room 1 goes directly into the flood water in the basement.  For 23 days, we use the bathrooms at the museum, we shower in room 1 and we eat a lot of ham sandwiches off of paper plates.

The River finally crests at 35.17 on June 7.  This is the 2nd highest crest on record.  Fortunately, we did not get any water in our residence or the Inn.  Unfortunately, several of our friends and neighbors were not so fortunate.  It will be June 18 until we have our next guest and can use our septic system.

It is now June 30 and the River Road is expected to reopen on July 3.  Our beautiful village is now scattered with huge red dumpsters as houses are gutted, the grass is brown, plants and flowers are brown.

I am not going to lie; this has been a very long and difficult few months.  But, with the support of our great guests, family, friends and neighbors, I am sure we will overcome this challenge.  We are more fortunate than a lot of other flood victims.

If you are still reading this post, I appreciate your time.  I ask you to please come out and support all the local businesses that have been affected by this historic flooding.  We look forward to July 1 as we start the 2nd half of 2019 and hope that the last six months of the year is much kinder to us than the first 6 months.  But, most of all, we look forward to getting back to a normal routine of hosting our guests.


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