Channahon residents on Friday sandbagged homes that were evacuated close to the Illinois & Michigan Canal because of concern that a dam would break.
“We’re hoping this is about the worst,” said Joel Pejkovich as he looked at water that had flooded beyond the canal but had not reached his in-laws’ house. “We’re hoping the dam will hold, and it will be OK.”
Pejkovich an hour earlier had helped persuade his in-laws move out of the house until it was clear that the dam would not break.
The voluntary evacuation in Channahon was one of several emergency flooding developments that arose Friday as water rushing down rivers and streams from the heavy rains reached southwestern Will and Grundy counties.
Boats were used to evacuate residents in Minooka for nearly 24 hours. More than 30 homes along the Illinois River were believed to have been evacuated between Minooka and Morris on Friday.
Evacuations began Thursday afternoon in Minooka because of flooding from Aux Sable Creek, said Ken Briley, director of the village’s Emergency Management Agency. Rescue operations started at 2 p.m. Thursday and did not end until about 1:45 p.m. Friday.
Other evacuated areas in Minooka were the Shady Oaks mobile home park and a neighborhood at Minooka and Tabler roads.
In Morris, flooding from the Illinois River shut down a northbound lane approaching the Illinois 47 bridge. But the situation appeared to be stabilizing by 2 p.m., said Jim Lutz, director of the Grundy County Emergency Management Agency.
“Most operations are concluded at this point,” Lutz said. “It looks like the river has held its own for an hour or two. It probably will be several hours before we start to see the river recede.”
Morris Hospital, however, was still cleaning out and not admitting patients after its basement flooded Thursday afternoon. Forty-seven patients were evacuated — transferred to other hospitals, taken back to their nursing homes or released to go home.
The flooding had stopped on Friday, hospital spokeswoman Janet Long said. But the hospital was working with the Illinois Department of Public Health to ensure that the kitchen, laboratory and other operations in the basement were sanitized to the point where patients could return, Long said.
The hospital continued to take in patients at its emergency room, but ambulances were being directed to other hospitals, Long said.
The flooding from the I&M Canal also caused the closing of Interstate 55 from I-80 to U.S. 6. State highway officials said Friday they did not know when I-55 could reopen.
Channahon Mayor Joe Cook said that by Friday afternoon it appeared that the dam along the canal would not break.
“We feel pretty good that it’s going to hold now,” he said.
The dam is located in a picturesque spot in Channahon State Park. Homes line portions of the canal banks. About 40 families moved out in a voluntary evacuation because of the threat of the dam breaking.
The dam broke in 1996 during another torrential rainfall that flooded the Chicago region and beyond. It was rebuilt.
Corey Clowers was among about 20 Channahon residents who were waiting for more sandbags to put around the house vacated by Pejkovich’s in-laws.
“It’s going down. You can see the water line,” Clowers said, pointing to a tree that showed evidence that the overflow from the canal was receding.
“The neighbors are great,” Pejkovich said. “They saw we had the trucks and sandbags. The next thing you know we have 20 people here helping.”
Harold Damron, director of the Will County Emergency Management Agency, on Friday said the DuPage River crested in the morning in Bolingbrook and in the afternoon at Shorewood and Channahon.
“By evening, things will start to fall off a little bit,” he said of area river levels, adding that the water will continue to move south to the Illinois River and beyond. “As things get better in one area, that water is moving downstream, and things get worse in another area.”
A shelter set up by the American Red Cross at Plainfield South High School was closed Thursday night when only a few people showed up seeking assistance. Red Cross officials decided to help the people individually, Damron said.
As flood waters recede, Red Cross workers and county and municipal building inspectors will start to assess damage for possible grant or loan assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Damron said.
“It’s way too early to know (if assistance will come), but the first part of the process is to assess how many homes were flooded,” he said. “In the meantime, we’ve been telling residents: Definitely document damage and track any costs they are incurring.”
Damron said homeowners also should talk to their insurance agents to see what, if any, coverage they have because FEMA will need to know that.
He also said anyone needing shelter can call the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago at 312-729-6100.
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