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home : news : local   May 24, 2016

4/18/2013 7:14:00 AM
'Say a prayer for us': Another disaster on way for Utica? (video)

The trailer park in North Utica sits in rising waters by Clark’s Run creek. All of the residents in the trailer parks were evacuated early this morning. La Salle County and other parts of the Illinois Valley received up to 5 inches of rain since midnight alone.NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
+ click to enlarge

The trailer park in North Utica sits in rising waters by Clark’s Run creek. All of the residents in the trailer parks were evacuated early this morning. La Salle County and other parts of the Illinois Valley received up to 5 inches of rain since midnight alone.

NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock

Tom Collins
NewsTribune Senior Reporter

At least 25 residents of the mobile home court immediately adjacent to Clark’s Run creek were evacuated this morning due to rain-induced flooding in Utica, according to Illinois Valley chapter American Red Cross.
Utica fire chief Gary Gbur said La Salle County was considering this morning whether to consider the area a state disaster area and that Utica officials were, as of 8 a.m., weighing whether to declare Utica a disaster area. As of 9:30 this morning, county officials had not declared the county a disaster area.
Gbur said there have been no injuries and approximately 50 residents of East Grove Street, primarily a mobile home park, all were evacuated safely. At 6:45 a.m. volunteer Lisa Mertel already counted 25 refugees at Utica Village Hall, which was rendered into a temporary shelter and said at least two dozen more were expected to come down, as of 6:45 a.m.
Additionally, she said, all residents south of Canal Street have been advised to make preparations to be evacuated if the need arises — and Gbur said at 8 a.m. Clark’s Run was continuing to rise.
Jen Railey said authorities knocked on her door early today and ordered her out immediately.
“They wouldn’t let me go back in to get my clothes,” Railey said. “When they weren’t looking, I ran back in and grabbed the laundry basket.”
Asked if she had lost all of her worldly belongings, she said, “It looks like it.”
This was the fourth major flooding event in Utica since 1996, and the third time Clark’s Run has flooded during the same period. Utica last flooded in 2008 when the Illinois River flooded the south portion of town.
Village trustee Ron Pawlak said he has grown weary of Utica’s penchant for flooding.
“You can only take so much of this water,” Pawlak said, “and it starts to get to you.”
Pawlak noticed one difference between today’s flood and previous ones. The recently realigned Route 178 now runs just west of downtown, and no longer snakes through Mill Street. Pawlak observed that floodwaters followed the realigned roadway and seemed to distribute more water into the downtown than the previous configuration.
While focused on Clark’s Run north of downtown, village officials also are keeping a wary eye on the Illinois River. Dee Bennett Road was closed jsoutheast of downtown.
Village trustee Jim Schrader said the latest forecasts showed the Illinois River was projected to rise just 3 feet short of the level reached in 2008. Schrader said his business, Jim’s Repair, already has been beset with mud and that he faced at least a 12-hour cleanup as a direct result of the nearby flooding. His biggest worry, however, was the Illinois River, which could threaten his home. But he was taking it in stride.
“It’s something we’ve seen before,” he shrugged. “We know what to do.”
Some business owners south of downtown were preparing for major flooding at the Illinois River. Bill Delvallee, owner of The Carver and the Artist, and his wife Barbara, were moving all the store contents off the floor and onto every available tabletop and counter.
Delvallee explained that in 2008, the store was flooded 24 inches deep, and he expected the coming flood to bring just 3 feet fewer than in 2008.
“Say a prayer for us,” Delvallee said. “We’re going to need it.”
Utica Fire Department’s Ben Brown said all of the emergency personnel were staging at Waltham South School, west of downtown.
“Every mobile home in Utica is evacuated,” Brown said, indicating the department was officially called out at 4:22 a.m. today.
Utica had, following the 2004 tornado, listed flood control as a long-term objective in the village’s recovery program. One village trustee expressed frustration that it has not yet been fulfilled.
Gloria Alvarado said she tried twice in recent years to obtain some kind of box culvert that would funnel Clark’s Run into the Illinois and Michigan Canal during flood conditions but both times was rebuffed. The state, she said, refused to incorporate flood control into the realignment of Route 178, and then a subsequent appeal for funding was denied.
“But we didn’t have enough need,” Alvarado said sarcastically.
The La Salle County Historical Society Museum has minor amounts of water on the basement floor, but no artifact damage. Staff said it is a manageable amount.
Waltham Schools superintendent Bob Abney ordered both North and South Waltham schools closed today, and then opened the South gymnasium as a command center for Utica firefighters and La Salle County Emergency Management Service. Abney said there has been no flood damage to either school, but ordered the closure because of potentially impassable roads.
Abney said he would make a decision sometime this afternoon on whether to suspend classes again Friday, dependent on road conditions.

Reporter Matthew Baker contributed to this report. Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or

Related Stories:
• Governor pledges flood relief for Utica, Ottawa, Marseilles
• On the edge of disaster (video)
• South part of Utica recommended to evacuate
• Illinois River projected to shatter flood record
• Rain forcing closures, evacuations, mudslide (slideshow)

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: METALWORKER

Will do that. Lots of folks needing those prayers these days.
Aint sure I got the right numbers but I'll keep on saying them and maybe Karen and Kepha will approve .

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: Diane

I was just through town last weekend on the new roads.

Beautiful town!

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