Areal Flood Warning in effect for Will, Grundy counties after Kankakee River ice jam breaks

Wilmington under boil order | Flood Watch, Dense Fog Advisory in effect for much of Chicago area

Sunday, January 28, 2024
Kankakee River ice jam breaks; Areal Flood Warning in Will, Grundy Co.
There is Kankakee River flooding in Wilmington, IL after an ice jam broke at the I-55 bridge from warmer temperatures in the Chicago weather forecast.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Flash Flood Warning was downgraded Saturday in the Wilmington area after an ice jam broke on the Kankakee River Friday.

A Flash Flood Warning was downgraded Saturday in the Wilmington area after an ice jam broke on the Kankakee River Friday.

An Areal Flood Warning is in effect for Will and Grundy counties until noon Monday.

Most ice jams have cleared between the city of Wilmington and the Des Plaines River confluence as of Saturday afternoon. Water levels were recorded at 6.89 feet at 10:45 a.m.

"Both flash flood warnings for the Wilmington area and downstream of the I-55 bridge over the Kankakee River," the National Weather Service said. "River levels have dropped several feet after the jam cleared out, and the threat of additional rapid rises in water level have ended. However, the river remains above flood stage due to high streamflow from recent rains and snowmelt - therefore the areal flood warning for the area remains in effect."

The Will County Emergency Management Agency and local officials are monitoring river conditions, as river conditions can change rapidly.

All major roads have been reopened, but the north and south island parks in Wilmington remained closed on Saturday.

Wilmington has issued a boil order for anyone serviced by the city's water service, the EMA said, out of an abundance of caution. Any water used for drinking or cooking should be boiled for five minutes before use.

The emergency shelter at First Christian Church in Morris will not be in use on Saturday, and anyone in need of emergency shelter due to flooding should call Will County EMA at 815-740-0911.

Meanwhile, a Flood Watch is also in effect near most rivers in the Chicago area until noon Monday.

A Dense Fog Advisory is in effect for Chicago and surrounding areas until midnight Sunday.

Thawing ice, rain cause flash floods along Kankakee River

This comes after thawing ice and rain caused flash flooding along the Kankakee River on Friday.

At about 8:15 p.m. Friday, a large ice jam near the I-55 bridge over the Kankakee River broke. The National Weather Service initially said locations immediately downstream of the bridge could see a rapid rise in river levels of 3 to 5 feet. The flooding in areas near the ice jam were possibly life-threatening, the NWS warned.

Wilmington police said the river rose at least three feet overnight, and asked residents to avoid Route 53 between Route 102 and First Street.

Residents throughout downtown Wilmington should be prepared to take action, including evacuation, if necessary, police said.

"Flooding in downtown Wilmington is currently isolated to the North and South Islands. However, ice remains solid on the Kankakee River and water levels are steadily increasing due to water runoff and melting ice. The ice jam on the river has not fully broken and there is the potential for flooding throughout the day as ice begins breaking apart at a rapid pace," Will County Emergency Management Agency said.

RELATED: Chicago weather: Overnight freezing rain, icy conditions cause spinouts, crashes across area

The Will County Emergency Management team evacuated at least 14 people overnight. One bridge is shut down after it was torn up by water and ice. One of the main bridges on Route 53 reopened Friday afternoon.

The Wilmington Moose Lodge, located at 32050 W. River Road in Wilmington, is serving as an emergency lodge for anyone seeking shelter.

Some families in Wilmington in Will County are out of their homes.

"I was on my way home from work at about 10:50; I got home, and right here was starting to come up a little bit, and then I decided to come back outside to look, and now it's just flooded," Wilmington resident Daniel Beck said. "Very bad, it's devastating, all these homes the Van Duyne motel I heard is getting evacuated. It's pretty bad."

Julie Schmitke was staying in that motel.

"I didn't think it was that bad, except for the fact that they had to carry me because I have one leg. They had to carry me to a drier room, and then I was just waiting there for the ambulance to come and transport me," she said.

Some 1,200 people could be impacted by flooding.

"It's overwhelming. I feel sorry for all the residents and the businesses that it's going to affect. It's devastating," said Marvin Mack, Papa's Pickins Antique Shop owner.

On Friday morning, as the hours passed, the water continued to rise.

"Every night when I leave, I come to take a look at it. And you see it's slowly starting to climb, and now it's just like a dam broke loose," Mack said.

Mack owns an antique shop near Baltimore and Water streets, which is now blocked off to traffic, because the streets are so flooded.

"It's just really a freak incident, a combination of the ice and water at the same time. Warm weather coming in at once. It's not usually 50 in January and February," he said.

Lori Whited and others who have businesses along the channel are holding their breath, as water creeps closer to their back door.

"There's always ice back ups this time of year, but I've never seen it this bad," said Whited, who owns Lionsmark Auction Company. "It's pretty scary. We've been here for quite a few years and we've never seen the water come up on this side of the river. It's always the other side. So we're very concerned, right now."

The water level is just yards away from her auction business.

She spent Friday clearing everything out of the basement, in case it floods.

"That's our main focus. If it comes into our building, there's not a lot we can do," Whited said.

Some residents prepped by putting sandbags around their homes.

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