Nuclear power plant opens water siphons to melt Kankakee River ice jam amid Wilmington flood warning

Flood Warning, Flash Flood Watch in effect

Evelyn Holmes Image
Thursday, January 18, 2024
Nuclear power plant helps melt Kankakee River ice jam amid flood watch
A Flood Warning and a Flash Flood Watch are in effect around Wilmington for a Kankakee River ice jam. A nuclear power plant is helping melt the ice.

WILMINGTON, Ill. (WLS) -- It's a wait-and-see situation for the community of Wilmington as an ice jam along the Kankakee River threatens to cause some of the most severe flooding the city has seen in years.

The area in Will County remains under a flood watch after freezing temperatures caused ice jams to form. When temperatures rise, the ice could cause flash flooding.

"This is probably the worst they've seen it in 30," said Jeannine Smith, City of Wilmington administrator.

After using some of the warm water from the Dresden Energy Center cooling lake to speed up the melting of the ice on the river, local emergency officials got permission from Constellation Energy's nuclear power plant to open up all three siphons to help. The warm water siphons were activated at noon Thursday, pumping 150 cubic feet, or over 1,100 gallons, of water per second.

"It's clean water that is actually used to cool the nuclear power facility," said Allison Anderson with the Will County Emergency Management Agency. "So as it is coming out, it's probably about 80 degrees out of Dresden, and its making a big loop... to self cool."

The Wilmington Public Works Department has opened a 24-hour-a-day self-serve sandbag filling station outside city hall for anyone in need.

Authorities are keeping a close eye on areas along the Kankakee River that have already flooded, where they have already had to rescue at least one resident trapped in his home.

"In the unincorporated areas of Wilmington out in Will County... we've had several instances of flooding in the past out there, as well as some low lying areas in the city of Wilmington." said Deputy Chief Todd Friddle with the Wilmington Fire Protection District.

On Thursday afternoon, residents in low-lying areas were reminded to take precautions and be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.

"It's not like summer time. The water's not warm," said Dennis Housman, Director of the Wilmington Emergency Services & Disaster Agency. "You get in that cold with the water, it's cold and it's very dangerous."