With a few more rain showers and even snow flurries predicted in the Chicago area Friday, rescue workers pulled stranded residents from their flood-damaged homes while Gov. Pat Quinn declared 38 counties state disaster areas.
Gov. Quinn’s office said flash flooding and rapidly rising rivers and streams in the area have damaged or destroyed homes and businesses, forcing evacuations and causing power outages and numerous road closures.
“As we wait for the floods to pass, all Illinois residents should continue to take precautions, and stay off the roads if possible,” the governor said in a press release, warning of continuing damage in coming days.
This week’s storm totaled 5.55 inches at O’Hare International Airport, helping to make the month the third wettest April since 1871, according to National Weather Service archivist Frank Wachowski.
As of Thursday, the month’s total was 7.83 inches. Small showers and tiny pellets of ice hit morning commuters Friday, bringing that amount closer to the 8.33 inch record set for April in 1947.
“There’s a good chance we’ll tie the record — and we’re pretty close to breaking it,” Wachowski said. “We’ve got showers predicted for late Sunday night and may see some more shower activity next week.”
After the widespread damage Thursday, reports of some trouble continued Friday morning.
In Forest View, part of the levy along the Des Plaines River broke near 46th Street and Harlem Avenue, inundating the small near west suburb.
With various parts of town in up to 4 feet of standing water and some cars almost completely submerged, police and fire teams are using boats to get to homes of stranded residents, said Larry Brouk, director of public safety.
“All night we’ve been watching the water rise and rescuing people from their homes, bringing them to safety,” said Brouk. “We have numerous surrounding fire and police departments on scene – we’ve been rescuing people all night and into the morning.”
“It’s hectic. We’re mostly making sure no one goes around barricades (near the river),” Brouk said, adding that there are no reported injuries.
In Lake County, areas that are threatened by possible levee breaches include North Libertyville Estates in Libertyville and parts of Lake in the Hills. Officials there have deployed 200,000 sandbags countywide and are seeking assistance in filling and providing materials for more sandbags.
Meanwhile, water levels along the Fox River are still going up, said Don Bryant, director of the Kane County Office of Emergency Management, who is seeking to have the area declared an emergency.
The river level was at 12 feet Friday morning just below the Algonquin dam, and expected to peak late Saturday at 13 feet, Bryant said. That would not set a record, but would cause widespread major flooding, comparable to 2008, the worst flood this century, he said.
In North Aurora, the water caused flooding at the village hall, while residents in South Elgin and East Dundee agreed to voluntarily evacuate their homes.
Some of the worst flooding continues to be on Tuscaloosa Street in Algonquin Shores on the west side of the river just south of downtown, where a number of homes along the river have flooded, officials said. On the east side of Fox River, Grove Avenue in Valley View — off Route 25 between Valley View and St. Charles — is also flooded.
“For the most part, I think everybody understands that this was a significant rain event,” Bryant said. “Especially the people along the river, you kind of expect at some point you're going to get wet, speaking as somebody who lives 50 yards from the Fox River.”
Elsewhere in the northern suburbs, residents are still nervously awaiting the crests of the Des Plaines River, which flooded neighboring communities throughout the collar counties.
The river remained in the “major” flood stage in River Forest, having surpassed the 18.5 foot depth. The river depth of the river about doubled between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 4 a.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
Illinois state police said the flooding continues to divert traffic on some highways.
Along Interstate 290, ramps to North Avenue in both directions and the westbound ramp to Lake Street remained closed. Interstate 94 is also closed from the split at Interstate 57 to 147th Street in both directions, officials said.
Southbound traffic on Interstate 55 is being diverted off at Interstate 80 because of flooding just north of Route 6, according to state police.
The DuPage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management reported dozens of road closures, most of them in Wheaton, Oak Brook and Carol Stream.
On the positive side, the wet April month leaves last year’s drought a distant memory — and the state has almost completely recovered from the drought-like conditions, said Arlan Juhl, director of water resources for the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
“We had pretty much determined in March there were no surface water drought issues remaining in the state,” Juhl said. “There will be significant recovery to most ground water levels this month.”
Tribune reporter Antonio Olivo contributed
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