Ice jams along Kankakee River causing closures, damage

February 24, 2014 (KANKAKEE, Ill.)

The ice jams have been tearing up properties along the river. The ice has stopped moving on the Kankakee River for now. But the concern is where the chunks of ice, deeper than a foot and wider than a football field, will go next.

"I was walking up my sidewalk and all of a sudden it all lifted and just came in. And I thought it was going to take the house out then," said Eric Meinke.

On Saturday, Eric Meinke says the ice jam broke free upstream and some of it ended up on his lawn. This Kankakee River ice jam now rests near a residential area in unincorporated area of Will County, north of Wilmington.

Dave Zinanni of Kankakee County's emergency management authority, says the highway department has closed the Warner Bridge to pedestrian and vehicular traffic, however emergency crews are still able to use the bridge. They've called a structural engineer to examine the bridge, although there are no signs of damage.

There are ice jams along the Warner Bridge and upriver as well at the Kankakee River State Park and Wilmington. Closer to the Wilmington area ice jam, steam coming from the Dresden cooling lake is evidence of the warmer body of water. Officials say some of that warmer water is being siphoned to the Kankakee River, but it seems it's not enough to battle Mother Nature.

"The cold temperatures for so many days and the snowfall together creates a combination that just increases the possibility and risk of a significant jam, and that can bring flooding with it," said Harold Damron, Will County emergency management.

The Kankakee River is shallow and difficult for boat navigation. Zinanni says they haven't seen the river this jammed with ice since 1978-79.

Zinanni says it's good that it's this cold; it stops the flooding, but drains are also frozen, the ground is completely saturated and there is nowhere for the water to go.

There are other road closures, mostly in rural areas - Route 45 from Bourbonnais to Manteno and Route 17 west of Kankakee to the end of Warner Bridge.

Will County emergency management authority director Harold Damron says there are two significant ice jams affecting the Kankakee River there. The first ice jam is located along the Will and Grundy County line. The second ice jam is further upstream along the Will and Kankakee County line.

No blanket statement or warning has been issued, authorities say, because it is different in each place. Some residents have taken measures and moved out of their homes temporarily.

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