Weather Updates

Des Plaines expected to crest; flood woes worsen on Fox

A home owner carries his dog through high water O'Plaine Road Gurnee. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media

A home owner carries his dog through high water on O'Plaine Road in Gurnee. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media

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disaster area

Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday declared Lake County a state disaster area because of flood damage caused by days of severe storms and heavy rainfall.

The designation will help speed and expand access to state emergency resources and allow the governor to pursue federal relief and support, a statement from the governor’s office said.

“Illinois has seen an incredible level of devastation and reports indicate that conditions will get worse in the coming days,” Quinn said in a statement. “We want to ensure that every county gets the assistance they need and this declaration will give every affected community access to available resources.”

The governor declared 38 Illinois counties disaster areas, including Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, LaSalle and McHenry counties.

It allows affected communities to obtain state personnel and assets to aid in disaster recovery, including trucks, heavy equipment and crews for debris removal, security and public safety and health issues, the statement said.

The governor is also beginning the process of seeking federal assistance.

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Updated: May 21, 2013 6:20AM

The good news is minimal rain is expected the next few days and the Des Plaines River and North Branch of the Chicago River have crested.

The bad news is water levels on the Fox River and Chain O’Lakes continue to rise, with cresting on the Chain and Fox expected early next week. Antioch Township has been hit hard, with Larson and Park streets impassable.

Lake County officials said Friday they expect Fox River levels to eclipse 2008 levels.

In Gurnee, emergency officials have moved through the flash-flood stage of flooding and now just waiting for the Des Plaines to crest at an expected level of just over 11 feet and water recede. Some 40 buildings have been hit by flood waters and Mayor Kristina Kovarik issued an emergency declaration. Also hit hard in this flood event has been Lincolnshire.

While some people have stayed at the Gurnee Community Church at Old Grand Avenue and O’Plaine Road to man multiple pumps to keep water at bay, Erik Jensen, public information officer for the village, said some residents have stayed put in their homes, yet most business owners moved out to wait for the water to recede.

On Friday morning, one resident across from the Gurnee Community Bank on O’Plaine Road had to take his dog out and find a patch of grass so the dog could go to the bathroom. Then he carried the animal back inside the home.

Press tours of the affected area were predicated on the ground rules that no vehicles would enter the water because any vehicle can send off a wake and cause more problems for those fighting the water. The bank was built well above flood stage height, but it was closed Friday because the surrounding roads are under water.

One former resident, Mary Bury, 82, came to take pictures Friday and she sneaked into the zone by going through a nearby neighborhood. “You have to know your way around.”

“My husband (Dick) and I were trapped in the house for five days in 1986. We had to use a canoe to get back and forth,” she said. She is a widower now and no longer lives in the flood zone. “I didn’t expect this,” she said of how far the water had come up.

Jensen said officials thought the river was close to cresting, but as Bury noted, the water had risen some more in just the last few hours. “This may be the third-biggest flood, but it’s definitely in the top five,” he said.

Many of the businesses have “Jersey Barriers,” around them, which are cement barriers with plastic wrapped around them and then some sandbags at the seams. Volunteers had put the barriers around the Village Square professional building on Thursday and the water on Friday was just lapping at the edge of the barriers.

“Those are new this year and they have worked really well,” Jensen said. They have used between 18,000 and 20,000 sand bags during this flood event so far, with some coming from Warren Township and Lake County Public Works. Countywide, more than 250,000 sandbags have been distributed to impacted communities.

“When something like this happens, it’s a team effort,” he said. It also helped that they started early and they didn’t get as much rain Thursday as they expected.

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