Chicago cleans up, other towns watch rivers rise

September 17, 2008 6:28:02 AM PDT
Floodwaters continued to surge downstream Tuesday, leaving residents along the Illinois River warily eyeing the rising water while those in some northern Illinois communities began cleaning up a wet, stinky mess. Hurricane Ike's substantial remnants dumped more than 10 inches of rain parts of northern Illinois over the weekend, sending rivers rising, overwhelming drainage and sewer systems and flooding streets and basements.

Much of the Chicago area was returning to normal Tuesday, as floodwaters began to recede. And farmers were learning that, for most, the heavy rains shouldn't create too many serious problems.

Elsewhere, residents in some towns still were waiting to return home. In others, the worst may not be over.

In Morris, an Illinois River town about 25 miles southwest of Joliet, about 100 people still couldn't reach homes in low-lying areas along the river, which topped 24 feet -- 8 feet above flood stage and a new local record -- Assistant Fire Chief Robert Wills said Tuesday.

A handful of residents sought shelter with the Red Cross, while most stayed with relatives until they could get back home and assess the damage. But that probably won't happen until late Wednesday or Thursday, Wills said.

"She's on the down climb, but she's going real slow," Wills said of the river.

Peoria-area residents were cleaning up from almost 8 inches of weekend rain, even as the Illinois River continued to rise. It was expected to crest there Friday at just over 27 feet -- 9 feet above flood stage.

Residents farther downriver say they're watchful, but expect few problems.

In Medrosia, the river is expected to crest at about 25 feet, more than 10 feet above flood stage, early next week. But city board member Darrell Benjamin says most of the town and local infrastructure should be safe.

"We should be safe up until 28, 29 foot before we really have to start worrying," he said.

In northern Illinois, the worst seemed to be over in hard-hit areas like Chicago's Albany Park, a North Side neighborhood where the Chicago River overflowed its banks, said Jennifer Martinez, spokeswoman for the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communication.

Record rainfall over the weekend dumped more than 100 billion gallons of water on the city and outlying areas, official have said, overwhelming Chicago's 4,300 miles of sewers and backing up water into hundreds of homes.

In suburban Des Plaines, where more than 1,000 people were displaced by flooding, crews began collecting sandbags piled along streets and riverbanks. The Des Plaines River was expected to fall below flood stage by sometime Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

"There's been a lot of progress in the last 24 hours," said Will Soderberg, a spokesman for the city of Des Plaines. "The recovery process is under way. And that should take the rest of the week."

Power had been restored for nearly all Ameren customers Tuesday evening, two days after Ike's wind left up to 49,000 of the St. Louis-based utility's Illinois customers in the dark.

In Brookport, along the Ohio River in far southern Illinois, 70-year-old town clerk Kay Hurst was happy to be at work Tuesday because her house was still without power.

Hurst, who enjoys reading herself to sleep, has had to do that by flashlight since Sunday, when wind ripped the electric meter from her house and tore away power lines.

"So far, it hasn't been long enough that it's really upset me terribly," she shrugged. "I'm pretty patient. Sometimes, things like this happen."

As with Hurst, the storms won't amount to much more than a shrug from most of the state's corn and soybean farmers.

Those with crops near rivers and streams probably lost some, but that's a tiny fraction of the corn and soybeans grown in Illinois, University of Illinois agriculture professor Bob Hoecht said.

"To the consumer, it's probably not going to mean any major differences in yield that are going to be harvested, so the supply is not going to be changed to any great extent," he said.

But some farmers getting ready to harvest corn may have to wait a while, he said.

That includes Dave Down, who felt lucky that much of his 1,000 acres of corn and 500 acres of soybeans near Peoria were on rolling terrain that didn't pool a lot of the 13 inches of rain he says pummeled him this month, including several inches Sunday. But his fields are mighty muddy.

"It's soft out there, for sure," he said Tuesday.

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Associated Press writers Jim Suhr in St. Louis and Michael Tarm in Chicago contributed to this report.

A city hotline number has been setup for Albany Park residents that were evacuated: (312) 743-INFO.

If you have questions or problems with flooding, you can call the city's non-emergency number at 311.

The Red Cross also has four other shelters set up, located at:

Des Plaines Park District

515 East Thacker Street

St. Stevens Lutheran Church at 147th and Kildare in south suburban Midlothian

Mount Carmel school

1101 North 23rd Avenue

Melrose Park

North Park College

5801 North Pulaski

Chicago


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