September 7, 2008

Return of Flooding Overnight Rains May Make It As Bad As It Was in August

By Lee Filas

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Communities along the swollen Fox and Des Plaines rivers are bracing for flooding and closely watching weather reports.

How much flooding will depend on the overnight rainfall.

State officials warn that if National Weather Service predictions of an inch of rain hold true, parts of Lake, Cook, McHenry and Kane counties could be in for the second instance of significant flooding in eight months.

Last August, more than 400 homes along the Fox River and Chain O' Lakes in Fox Lake and Antioch were damaged by flooding caused by weeks of heavy rain.

The immediate threat is in northern Lake County. Officials in the area said they will be ready.

"We are preparing for sandbagging and hoping we don't get as much rain as is predicted," said Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik. "Everything will be in place in case the rain does fall. But it's all coming down to how much rain will fall tonight."

Officials at the Fox Waterway Agency have already declared the Fox River and Chain a no-wake zone. Boats are not allowed to travel at more than 5 mph, but hardly any boaters are out on the water this time of year.

The flood threat surfaced quickly Monday. The Des Plaines River rose about a foot after rain late Sunday and throughout the day Monday. About an inch of rain fell during that time.

Of concern, said Rita Lee, a hydraulic engineer for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, are rivers and land already saturated by snowmelt and rain.

An additional inch of overnight rain from Wisconsin would be more than the Fox River can push through Fox River dams in McHenry and Algonquin, Lee said.

"This has the potential to be nearly as bad as the flooding last August," she said.

Flood water was already breaching property Monday in some areas of Antioch and Fox Lake.

"Sequoit Creek is over the banks in some areas and could start affecting homes with any additional rainfall," said Lee Shannon, head of the Emergency Services Disaster Agency in Antioch. "We have sandbags ready to be filled if needed."

Ed Lescher, head of the Emergency Services Disaster Agency in Fox Lake, said the village has sandbags left over from the floods last August, if needed.

Even farther south, a flood warning was issued for Algonquin's portion of the Fox River in Kane and McHenry counties. Some streets inside Elgin's Willow Lakes Estates mobile home complex and River Road in Fox River Grove also could be affected.

Sandbagging would not begin along the Des Plaines River in Gurnee until this morning, Kovarik said, and only if the rain falls as expected.

"The ground is so water-logged right now that there is no place for it to go but into the river," she said. "We are really hoping the rain doesn't fall as hard as they expect."

Fox Lake Mayor Cindy Irwin said Mother Nature needs to "give us a break here."

"We just got through one of these things and we can't afford another one," she said. "Mother Nature really needs to lighten up on us."

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