After a weekend of record-setting crests, the Illinois River this morning was falling from Morris to La Salle but was still rising in Henry, according to the National Weather Service.
The cause — runoff from up to 6 inches of rainfall last week — left wet and damaged basements throughout the Illinois Valley.
Water still covered Brunner Street in west La Salle and the vast majority of Water Street in Peru.
Pine Street in Peru was still closed at Water Street, where two workers leaned a pickup truck. They work at a business along the river and could not get to work, they said.
To the west, Jim Tipton wore chest waders as he tried corralling mulch that had floated into the river.
“Out in the middle of (Water) street it comes to my chest here,” Tipton said.
Tipton’s other job Monday morning was ferrying 15 employees to the main office on the south side of Water Street. They parked on the north side of the street on the elevated lot, boarded a flat-bottom fishing boat and Tipton walked the boat to the office.
The parking lot at the office was covered at 6:30 a.m. but by 8:30 a.m. water had receded from half of it.
“It’s still going down, Tipton said.
Mayor Scott Harl said Peru was luckier than many towns, with no residents in the river floodplain.
However, the east-end sewage plant required some furious sandbagging Friday night.
“We were very close to losing the east end sewage plant,” Harl said. “Just to put it into perspective, two 35,000 gallon-per-minute pumps at the east end sewage treatment were not keeping up,” Harl said.
About 30 volunteers and city officials filled sandbags until midnight Friday and saved the plant, he said.
“We were within 2 inches of losing our hydroelectric plant and there’s nothing you could do about that,” Harl said. The plant is on the Illinois River at the Starved Rock Lock and Dam.
The electric substation also sandbagged and remained operable, Harl said. Flint Hills plant and three taverns on Water Street remained closed this morning, he said.
On drier land above the river, torrential rainfall runoff last week backed up sewers into basements. An informational meeting for residents affected by flooding is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at city hall.
This morning city workers began pumping out water which overflowed the wastewater treatment plant up to the roof Saturday morning.
Workers cut shrubbery and fencing on the northwest corner of the plant to make room for pumps. A large pump was on its way from St. Louis and the city was waiting for permission from the railroad to work around the tracks.
The water will be pumped from the plant to a ditch by the river. Sewage would be diluted enough by floodwater that it would do no harm, Mayor Cliff Banks said.
Banks said he ordered the treatment plant’s power cut when he heard water could run over the levee and flood the plant. The levee would need to be built up three feet to prevent future flooding. Damage to the plant will remain unknown until workers can see inside the building but most components will need to be replaced, Banks said.
“It could be a month before we get it up and running again,” he said.
Raw sewage was being pumped into the lagoon but was not being processed. The sewage will continue to build up until the plant is working again.
Spring Valley Boat Club began pumping out its building Sunday afternoon. Water had reached almost up to the bar but they were able to pump most of it out and get indoors, Commodore Brian Pellegrini said.
“We have some damage,” Pellegrini said. He thanked members for their efforts during the flooding. “We have a lot helping.”
Route 178 reopened Sunday night in Utica — a pivotal development that will assist the village in its Illinois River flood cleanup and recovery.
Mayor Fred Esmond said this morning workers from Illinois Department of Transportation cleared debris from the roadway and reopened Route 178 by 7 p.m. Sunday.
The timing was good: Emergency officials from La Salle County are expected in Utica today and now can reach an estimated 35 flooded homes and businesses located south of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Ameren restored power there, as well.
Village officials, too, were able to enter village hall and assess the damage left by about 1½ inches of water.
“It didn’t look like it hurt much of anything, as far as the woodwork or drywall,” Esmond reported. The carpet needs to be cleaned or replaced, and the village is temporarily operating out of 105 Division St., across from Waltham South School.
Saturday, the village board convened a special meeting to give Esmond emergency powers and to approve resolutions that make Utica eligible for state and federal aid. Village officials deemed last week’s flood worse than in 2008, but not by much; last week’s topped the previous record by 9 inches.
A consensus is emerging that the 2008 event left the village well-prepared for this one. The village’s reverse-911 system worked well, residents heeded evacuation calls promptly and village officials are experienced with seeking relief assistance.
“It’s fortunate and unfortunate that the village is experienced with handling these things,” Heitz observed, “because they’re happening more and more frequently.”
The village of DePue prepared for predictions that the rising Illinois River would exceed the record 2008 level. Mayor Eric Bryant said volunteers placed sand bags on the corner of a dike around the sewage plant.
“With the 36-38-foot prediction, we didn’t want to take any chances,” Bryant said.
Saturday afternoon the plant had not been breached. The river had crested in La Salle but waters in DePue were not yet receding, Bryant said.
“It has not crested here, according to what I see in the back yard,” he said.
Water surrounded some homes and one resident’s basement floor buckled, Bryant said. Residents have seen flooding before though a few homes may have been affected this year that were not in 2008, he said.
“We’re maintaining,” Bryant said Saturday. “It looks like we’re going to be OK — unless we get a bunch of rain in the next few days.”
At the village park, water covered half of the park shelter roof and the top of the boat ramp.
The sewage plant worked full time and the village requested people to refrain from unnecessary water use, Bryant said.
“Don’t use it unless you absolutely have to,” he said. “That would help out.”
Residents are warned to stay off the lake.
“It’s very dangerous with all the debris,” Bryant said.
The Main Street bridge in Ottawa has been reopened now that flood waters have begun to recede, according to Ottawa police officials.
However, all classes at Ottawa Township High School were cancelled for today. Officials are unsure when classes will resume.
The La Salle County Assessor’s Office will begin collecting damage information in the areas affected by the recent floods beginning on Monday. The Assessor’s office will begin canvassing neighborhoods and gathering the required information in Marseilles, Utica and possibly Seneca and will proceed to other areas as flood waters recede.
All of the personnel collecting data will have a valid La Salle County identification card indicating that they are working for the County.
In addition to these visits, the La Salle County Emergency Management Agency has opened a bank of phones where all La Salle County residents affected by flooding, can call and provide the damage information needed. Residents will be asked the street address, dwelling type, if it is owned or rented, the depth of the water that entered the dwelling, if there was any structural damage and if there was either home owner’s, renter’s or flood insurance coverage.
This information can be provided by calling one of the following numbers; (815) 433-3003, (815) 434-2667 or (815) 433-3607. The phone lines will be open from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. through Friday.
Information gathered during this phase of the flood recovery is required by the State of Illinois in order to seek a Federal Preliminary Damage Assessment. If the federal government issues a major disaster declaration, it may make assistance available to families, businesses and local governments in declared counties that suffered eligible disaster related damages.
Health and cleanup
La Salle County Health Department is offering free tetanus vaccinations and water testing kits. Vaccinations are available 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information contact the health department at (815) 433-3366 or (800) 247-5243.
Oglesby will pick up flood-damaged belongings at curbsides on Tuesday. Have items at the curb by 6 a.m. that morning. For information call City Hall at (815) 883-3389.
Peru’s garbage hauler will pick up materials damaged by flooding on residents’ regular collection day. Households can place damaged materials at the curb immediately.
Mendota will offer trash bins as soon as they become available for flood damaged items. The bins will be at the Mendota swimming pool parking and at 601 Eighth St. at the base of the downtown water tower. Only flood-damaged items can be dropped off, no appliances or electronics. Buckman, Main and Fifth streets, will accept appliances.