OQUAWKA, Ill. - There were really two floods here in 1993.
First, there was the usual April flood as melting snow caused the Mississippi River to rise.
"Then in May it started to build up again," said John Carrier, Henderson County, Illinois, emergency management coordinator.
Carrier became Henderson County's emergency management coordinator in 1992, and immediately began working on the county's disaster plan.
It was finished just in time.
Drainage District No. 3, which protects the area west of Gladstone, Illinois, was flooded early on. The levee breach resulted in the loss of 2,700 acres.
Officials more or less expected that, however, and put their efforts into the county's two remaining levees.
"Our main levees never broke," Carrier said.
There was a pervasive spirit of selflessness and sacrifice, he said.
Farmers volunteered their tractors to power pumps, losing engine after engine as they burned out from the load. All knew their efforts wouldn't save the valley north of U.S. 34, but Carrier said that wasn't the point.
"It kept Route 34 open," he said.
A retired grocery store manager volunteered to take on managing the donations of food and water. A man with experience running a lumber yard was put in charge of sandbags, plywood and other building materials.
Migrant laborers in Illinois to work the fields instead worked to shore up the levees. Prison inmates were allowed outside the walls of their institutions to build walls against the water.
Elderly residents unable to handle the physical strain of throwing sandbags came with cases of donated drinks and other supplies.
Carrier said when Illinois National Guard soldiers patrolling at night saw mysterious bubbling sand formations, they woke up their fellow troops and went to work.
"They didn't know what it was, but they built sandbags around it," he said.
Only the next day did the troops learn they had spotted a sand boil, and that it could have caused a levee breach if they hadn't acted as quickly as they did.
As successful as they were at keeping the river out, however, they failed as the rain was kept inside.
"We drowned from the inside out," Carrier said.
Officials calculated nearly 1.7 inches of water was pumped out of Henderson County every day.
"The rain flooded us," he said. "It just couldn't get out."
Carrier said the flood's devastation wasn't just physical. It took a severe emotional toll on all those who were affected.
People threw away things that easily could have been salvaged. Metal tools, rods and reels and tackle boxes that just needed hosed off were carried to the curb and left as garbage.
"I don't think they wanted anything," he said.
About 13 miles upriver, at Keithsburg, Illinois, new residents have replaced those who left after the flood.
Many businesses, however, have remained closed to this day.
Mayor Sharon Reason said 92 homes were destroyed by the flood. There were 107 properties included in the FEMA buyouts, including the First Christian Church.
"There is a new church on higher ground now," she said.
A new subdivision has also been built on higher ground, and two new apartment complexes - the Village Green Apartments and the aptly named River Crest Apartments - replaced some of the older housing stock swept away by the raging river.
"If we lost families, we have gained that many back again," Reason said.
A new frisbee golf course, horseshoe pits and a new hiking and bicycling trail have gone up on FEMA land where building is now restricted.
Not everyone was completely satisfied with the way things were handled, but Reason said most people understand in retrospect.
Older residents, especially, had a hard time adjusting after their homes were destroyed.
"They thought they would stay there forever," she said.
Business owners also were disproportionately affected by the flood.
While FEMA provided money to help homeowners and local governments, Reason said businesses in her city were left out to dry.
"They didn't have the money to address the downtown," she said.
A number of business owners had put everything they had into their ventures. When the flood waters washed it all away, they had nothing left with which to rebuild.
Even after 10 years, Keithsburg's business community remains about one-fifth smaller than it was before the flood.
Some downtown buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places were still vacant.
Reason said the people of her community wouldn't trade the river for anything, however, and would never dream of living anywhere else.
"The river is the main reason most of us live here," she said.
Those who remained in Niota, Illinois, after 1993 also are living with the flood's legacy.
"We lost over half our people," Fire Chief John Simpson said.
Of all the buildings in Niota, only three escaped flooding. Simpson's house was among them.
"There were a lot of ups and downs for people," said Phyllis Frey, a longtime Niota resident who helped turn the firehouse into a disaster headquarters and dining hall during the 1993 flood.
"We had an awful lot of help from the Salvation Army, the Red Cross ..." Simpson said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation, the National Guard and the Department of Corrections also deserve plenty of credit, he said.
After the levee broke, he said, the National Guard was especially helpful in maintaining checkpoints and keeping out those who didn't belong.
"They stayed quite a while after the main flood," he said.
Once the water was gone, residents found their homes covered in mud and oil.
Although a pipeline pumping station is across the railroad tracks, Simpson doesn't blame it for the slick, slimy mess.
"It came from upriver," he said. "I don't know if they ever did figure out where it all came from."
Some businesses, like the gas station that used to greet travelers on Illinois 96, never reopened.
"A lot of people didn't build back," he said.
Most relocated to Nauvoo, Illinois, where housing was plentiful and flooding was far less likely. A few elderly residents moved to a new senior housing complex in Dallas City, Illinois.
"I think we're a tighter community now," Frey said.
Many of the homes in harm's way had been rentals, Frey said, and the flood's destruction allowed a number of substandard structures to be cleared away.
The buyouts also left a vacant area where volunteers later erected a community playground, giving the small town a safe place for the children to play.
"I think we're doing OK," Frey said. "But I wouldn't want to go through it again."
The community had a similar experience in 2001, and Simpson and Frey said lessons learned in 1993 helped keep the high water eight years later from having the same results.
"We were better prepared the second time," he said. "But it wasn't quite as bad as it was in '93, either."