Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Crystal City Merchants Watch as Water Laps at Their Livelihoods

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Crystal City Merchants Watch as Water Laps at Their Livelihoods

Article excerpt

When a Shoney's all-you-can-eat breakfast bar is empty in the morning, you know something has gone awry.

That's the situation in Crystal City, where the coffee pots are empty, and the smell of bacon is gone. No customer has eaten in the restaurant for 12 days, since the Mississippi River flooded this area for a second time in two years. Although the customers are missing, this Shoney's has a pillow, an alarm clock - and a waist-high wall of sandbags trying to save a million dollars' worth of renovations from floodwater.

"This is my bedroom, my kitchen and my office," said the restaurant's general manager, Barb Bunting, as she pointed to an empty booth with a pillow and a desk with a calculator. "We've just been having a vigil here."

That means someone being at the closed restaurant 24 hours a day, every day, until the water no longer threatens the building. The job is not always exciting.

"Basically, we just sit here and watch the sandbags," she said.

During the Great Flood of 1993, the water was as high as Bunting is tall - 5 feet.

This time, the water has only reached 2 feet up the sandbag wall, leaving the restaurant dry for now. Tuesday, the water barely touched the sandbags.

The renovated restaurant reopened six months ago.

More than a block of U.S. Highway 61-67 through Crystal City was under some water Tuesday, leaving a half-dozen businesses accessible only by rowboat.

Dorothy Ryan, a Pevely resident who shops in Crystal City, said, "To me, the answer is to get a levee to take care of this or turn it into some type of a park."

Buying out homes in flood plains has been successful. Buying businesses is a different tale.

Buck Katt, who managed the buyout program for the state Emergency Management Agency, said: "The reason we are focusing on residential property was that was Gov. Carnahan's priority. You can buy a lot of houses for the price of one business."

Kimmswick lies north of Crystal City, and because Highway 61-67 is closed in that area, the only way to get to Kimmswick is to follow arrow-shaped signs pointing the way along back streets. …

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