I live twenty miles north of St. Louis, Missouri in Alton, Illinois, and in the spring of 1993, I experienced one of the worst floods in the history of the area. They called it the 100-year flood and it lasted for months. Our home was not flooded, nor did we have to use a boat to get from our home to our vehicles, but we were still affected by the flood in that we had no running water for over a month, as the Alton water plant was flooded. Still, this was not as bad as some people we knew who not only had their possessions and homes destroyed by floodwaters, but also had the homes looted by thieves.
This year the floodwaters returned, not in the magnitude as in 1993, but people living in the floodplains along the Mississippi, who had ‘been there, done that’, decided to handle this flood in a different way, by having alternate plans of escape, finding safe places to live, and even plans on how to handle looters.
Every day I checked with my friend, who lives in the floodplain on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River, to see if she had yet to be driven from her home, and each day it was the same. No, but we are ready when we need to evacuate. She and her husband had worked out a plan long ago that if the floodwaters came near their home, she and the pets would go to her sister’s house 20 miles away, and he would stay to guard the home, unless the floodwaters just became too dangerous to stay.
They had a two storey home and he had laid out all the provisions he thought he would need including guns and plenty of ammo. Knowing about the looting that went on during the flood of 1993 and although I understood their concern, I still shuttered at the thought of having to go to such measures to protect your home and voiced this to my friend.
She told me they were not near as prepared as some of their neighbors were, especially one man who had built a type of platform on the roof of his house, set up a tent, equipped with all the necessities for daily living and staying there until the floodwaters receded. He also was equipped with guns to defend his property.
My friend said looters steal anything and go to great lengths to get it. She said these are professional thieves in that they will scout out and constantly survey the area when floodwaters start creeping up, identifying target homes. They will watch the traffic going in and out of the house and know when the “pickings are ripe for the taking.” It is not so much the valuable items in a home that get taken, but things like copper tubing, electrical wiring, or any type of scrap metal that can be sold without fear of it being traced.
Arrests for these crimes are not reported very often because it is hard for law enforcement to find the thieves once a flooded home has been robbed. The floodwaters have destroyed any evidence and the thieves know this. Weeks may pass before a homeowner even realizes they have been robbed because of the mess from the floodwaters. Some thieves actually believe that because the house was abandon they did not commit a crime by taking anything from the property.
My friend was lucky because they did not have to evacuate from their home as the floodwaters came close, but did not reach their house and have since receded.