Flooding continues along Kankakee River

January 23, 2008 3:45:04 PM PST
Flowing ice jams are to blame this time for the rising flood waters.A flood warning continues through Thursday for parts of the Chicago area along the Kankakee River.

Wilmington is the hardest hit area. Police have been setting up roadblocks in some places, and some people have been evacuated.

The flood warning is expected to remain in effect through Friday.

Residents are being ordered to stay alert because the ice could break apart and move downstream. At the moment, the river levels appear to be falling.

This is the second time this month that winter floods have threatened the residents along the Kankakee River. Wilmington is 50 miles southwest of Chicago.

The Kankakee River was covered in ice. Around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, it was moving pretty rapidly downstream. But then it ground to a halt. Will County emergency management officials are concerned the ice can stack up and become a flood.

Ice dams are unpredictable and can break apart, causing rapidly rising water levels.

"A lot of that water was relieved yesterday when the jam moved earlier yesterday. So we can have that pressure build up again," said Harold Damron, Will Co. emergency mgmt.

"So long as you have this valve closed and water in this pipe, it will go into the Kankakee," said Ed Rowley, Dresden Nuclear Power Plant engineer.

To prevent further ice blockage, Will County emergency management is using warm water from the nearby nuclear power plant to melt the ice. They carry thousands of gallons under a dike and into the river. The system started Monday and will go for 14 days.

"Water will flow continuously from the cooling pond out to the Kankakee. Within hours, you'll see the water open up, so you'll see water opening up and the ice melting at that point," said Rowley.

Will County officials say the river has receded about a foot and is holding steady, but not before it spilled over into streets and into the yards of a couple dozen homes.

Zera Tasch has a dog kennel in her back yard and checked on the building to make sure it was OK.

"Everything is fine. Thank God. I got 15 dogs out there. I didn't want to bring them all in," she said.

Tasch and other Wilmington residents are relying on that warm water from the Dresden power plant to heat up this river and to get the ice going again. And in the meantime, Will County officials say that a flood warning will be in effect until Friday, when the river should dip below flood stage.