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Quentin Ainsley and Kirk Silver, site technician at Starved Rock State Park, haul picnic tables to higher ground to prepare for the rising Illinois River. The park has closed the boat ramp and is in the beginning stages of action. The Illinois River at La Salle is currently above flood stage at 21 feet, but officials say there’s no danger to local towns and only limited rain is forecast over the next 72 hours.
Don Petre and his staff zipped off to the riverbanks of Starved Rock State Park on Monday, moving picnic tables and other items that could wash away if the rising Illinois River crested its banks.
“I think it’s becoming a way of life for us,” said Petre, assistant site superintendent. “We have to be under constant alert for what the river’s doing.
“I’ve been here a long time and it seems as if it (flooding) is getting worse.”
The Illinois River is again under a flood warning in La Salle County, but there is no need to panic: It’ll take a lot more rain than what we’ve had lately to spark a repeat of last year’s record floods.
The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Illinois River at La Salle until Wednesday afternoon, warning of “minor flooding” as the river crests 18-24 inches above flood stage.
Mark Witalka, lockmaster at Starved Rock Lock and Dam, said this weekend’s heavy but short-lived downpours do not pose a threat of major flooding. Starved Rock also is at flood stage, having risen 2½ feet since Sunday, but they’re still 14 feet away from the record set last year that wreaked havoc in Utica.
“We’ll be fine as long as it’s just isolated storms,” Witalka said.
And if indeed there is more rain coming, it’s more likely to be the fierce but brief cloudbursts that have been the norm in recent weeks.
Jamie Enderlen, a meteorologist in Romeoville, said at midday Monday that more rain was coming overnight and “after that I’m not seeing a whole heck of a lot.”
“The next chance of rain doesn’t arrive until Thursday,” she said, “and the rest of the week there’s just a small chance of rain, nothing too significant.”
While the Saturday and Sunday storms arrived just in time to send people scurrying inside, area farmers are decidedly less unhappy with Mother Nature. After months of dry subsoil — the remnants of a prolonged drought and frozen winter topsoil — the sporadic drenching has been welcome, indeed.
According to the Weather Channel website, there have been only nine days in June with no precipitation whatsoever, though also only one in which the daily total has exceeded an inch. The result has been a comparatively wet June in which we’ve already exceeded the monthly average 3.82 inches (4.4 inches and counting) with six days left in the month.
Pete May, a farmer in Hall Township, called the 2014 growing season “very good” — though he noted his farm wasn’t among those deluged by lingering cells.
“So far, so good,” May said, “but we haven’t been hit with 3 or 4 inches at one time.”