Kankakee River ice jam causes flooding around Wilmington homes

Flood Warning, Flash Flood Watch in effect

ByRob Hughes WLS logo
Tuesday, January 16, 2024
Kankakee River ice jam causes flooding around Will County homes
Kankakee River flooding due to a Wilmington ice jam has been impacting homes in the area. A Flood Warning and a Flash Flood Watch are in effect.

WILMINGTON, Ill. (WLS) -- People living along the Kankakee River in suburban Wilmington have been watching nervously as a massive ice jam pushes closer to their homes on Tuesday.

Some houses are surrounded by floodwater that pushed over the banks of the river when the ice broke.

A Flood Warning was issued for the river through at least next Monday.

There is also Flash Flood Watch for the ice jam in effect for the lower Kankakee River from near I-55 downstream to the confluence with the Illinois River, including portions of Grundy and Will counties. That watch will be in effect until further notice, said ABC7 Meteorologist Larry Mowry.

Watch the latest 7-day outlook from the ABC7 AccuWeather Team.

The ice jam is holding back a significant amount of water, and sudden shifting or breaking of ice may occur at any time over the next several days, which could cause new flooding with limited advanced notice. Dangerous ice flows or shifting of ice may damage structures along the shore, and additional roads and streets may be flooded.

The stretch of the Kankakee River looked like something you might see on an expedition in Alaska on Tuesday. Huge chunks of ice smashed together, causing a backup of the normally free-flowing river.

"It sounds like a freight train," said Barbara Ward.

Ward lives just steps away from the river. She described the moments the ice broke.

"You can't do anything. You just stand here, and you watch and you pray to God, oh my God, please don't come into my house," Ward said.

Her house is safe for now. Others aren't so lucky.

Chopper 7 captured images from above, showing homes and cars surrounded by water frozen into ice.

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"Now it's flowing upstream instead of downstream, so there's no telling where that's going and what it's melting," said Steve Highbaugh.

Highbaugh canceled a trip out of town to monitor the conditions behind his home. A resident at the location for 18 years, he's no stranger to the dangers of ice jams.

"It depends how much rain we get in the spring. If we get a gully-washer, a lot of people are going to be in trouble," Highbaugh said.

A few years ago, Highbaugh said, he and his wife moved out until the ice jam melted and it was safe to come back. But for Highbaugh and his neighbors, the pros of living along the Kankakee River outweigh the cons.

"Hey, that's living on the river. That's what you want. In the summer time, it's absolutely God's paradise here. It's beautiful," Ward said.

People there are still not in the clear. As the ice melts from moving water and eventually warmer temperatures, there is the possibility of more flooding.

The Riverside Fire Department also said an ice jam on the Des Plaines River has continued to grow on Tuesday

That ice jam now extends from near McCook upstream through Lyons and Riverside to near Salt Creek. Water levels on the Riverside gauge are now exceeding bankfull.

But Riverside, Lyons and Brookfield fire officials told ABC7 that ice jam is not yet a major concern. Right now, they are monitoring the situation.

No homes or businesses have been impacted by the Des Plaines River jam yet.

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