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home : news : local   May 27, 2016

4/20/2013 6:01:00 AM
Flood in Utica encroaches toward I&M Canal

Tom Collins
NewsTribune Senior Reporter

The last time the Illinois River flooded in 2008, the unwanted water reached all the way to the Willows hotel south of the Illinois and Michigan Canal.

Friday, floodwaters reached the Willows’ doorsteps by noon — and then kept going.

Village officials spent Friday afternoon and evening watching the waters encroach further and further north and kept fingers crossed the flood would begin receding late Friday or early today.

Utica fire chief Gary Gbur confirmed midday projections that the river still was on pace to hit a record 469 feet above sea level and to crest about 1 a.m. today. While downtown Utica was believed to be safe, Gbur said all eyes would be on the Johnson Street intersection with Route 178 — a spot that wasn’t impacted in 2008.

“Nobody’s out of the woods yet,” Gbur said. “Everybody needs to monitor the situation.”

One Johnson Street resident said there has been no evacuation order and no sign his neighbors were mobilizing, either.

Joe Woodshank said he lives closer to St. Mary Catholic Church than to the Route 178 intersection and expressed confidence the floodwaters would not impact him or his neighbors.

“We’re on pretty doggone high ground,” he said. “It’d have to come up 20 feet to get me.”

The curator of the La Salle County Historical Society said the museum staff decided not to test fate.

Ashley Bloomquist-Baron said volunteers came down Thursday and emptied out the entire basement. All artifacts and records either were moved upstairs or offsite and out of harm’s path.

“We had a bad experience when the creek backed up and all the basements in Utica flooded, including us,” she explained. “We heard it was going to be worse than in 2008, so we didn’t want to take any chances.”

While residents living at the edge of the flood are holding their ground, those who were soaked last time have already fled.

Gbur said he was pleased with the response to a recommendation to evacuate issued Thursday. Residents and business owners south of the Illinois and Michigan Canal typically advised the warning and completed preparations before the riverbanks overflowed early Friday.

“We’ve had tremendous success with people cooperating in a timely manner,” Gbur said.
So when will residents be able to move back in? Village engineer Kevin Heitz said it could be a while.

Heitz said the river is unlikely to recede much past the 2008 levels until Sunday.
“And then it takes a long time to drop after that,” Heitz said.

Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, April 20, 2013
Article comment by: Kathy despain

How did the Visitor Center at Starved Rock fare? Did water get into the building?

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