Chicago Weather: Wilmington residents return to homes after flood waters rise from melting Kankakee River ice jam

Thursday, February 7, 2019
Wilmington residents return to homes after flooding from melting Kankakee River ice jam
Wilmington residents were allowed to return to their homes after a melting ice jam along the Kankakee River posed a serious flooding threat Wednesday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Wilmington residents were allowed to return to their homes after a melting ice jam along the Kankakee River posed a serious flooding threat Wednesday.

Firefighters waded through water to rescue people from their homes earlier in the day. Will County officials said residents were being allowed to return to their homes as of about 3:40 p.m. Emergency responders remained in the area to assess it.

Residents had self-evacuated due to rising water levels as the ice jam along the Kankakee River began breaking up and coming up on to people's property. Residents were allowed back into their homes though officials cautioned that each flooded home needs to be checked for gas and electrical safety before they can go about their normal lives.

Kevin Lenzen was still flushing out about a foot of water from his first floor Wednesday night.

"You can't stop it. Once it starts you just watch," he said.

Wednesday morning the thick swatch of ice on the Kankakee River started cracking as water underneath it warmed up just enough. Massive chunks of what looked similar to a melting glacier clogged the waterway along a seven mile stretch.

"It's actually hitting the bottom of the bridge over the Kankakee River," Lenzen said.

"Once it hit the bridge it continued the jam there, and from there continued to back up into the yard," said Matthew Stevens, resident.

The force of the frozen water flipped a dock and send people scurrying to get valuables to higher ground. Nicor scrambled crews to turn off the gas.

"I took a couple things out of my garage, put the fridge up on some cinderblocks hoping that would be enough," Stevens said.

It's a nearly-yearly ritual along the river.

Early Wednesday morning, police helped a woman and her dog out of her home that was surrounded by two feet of water.

Once Frank and Kathy Mau heard the ice along the river cracking, they decided to get out and move to higher ground.

"It's scary," homeowner Kathy Mau. "We've been down here 11-12 years this is the first time we've really watched it break up."

"Been watching it for the last week and this morning it cracked down by us, but it didn't come up right away, I had time to get her out of bed and get out," said homeowner Frank Mau.

Rob Boers evacuated his young children out of his home.

"You think you get used to it living in Illinois, I mean one day it's 30, one day its 50, one day it's -20, you know?" Boers said. "But this, I've never seen anything like this since I've been here."

There was at least one instance in which first responders had to help a trapped resident to safety. Non-residents are being kept out of the area for their safety.


An overnight storm has left some roads in the Chicago area a little slick for the morning commute Wednesday.

An ice storm that moved through the Chicago area Tuesday evening created slick conditions for drivers Wednesday morning.

An Ice Storm Warning was in effect until early Wednesday morning for much of the Chicago area. Around 4 a.m., rain was still falling in southern parts of the area.

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The ice storm was not as bad as initially expected, but areas north and the west of the city were still dealing with some freezing rain early Wednesday morning.

ABC7 Storm Tracker checked out conditions on the Dan Ryan and Stevenson expressways, where the pavement was a little wet, but not ice, but fog was reducing visibility.

LIVE TRAFFIC: Check out live conditions on the ABC7 Traffic Map

The storm has led to a number of schools to close Wednesday and many others are starting late.

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Wednesday will be mostly cloudy with highs in the mid 30s before more rain moves in during the evening.