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Rock River flood waters begin to recede as residents prepare to clean up

Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 4:14 p.m. CDT
Caption
A man walks behind a house in flood waters from the Rock River Friday afternoon at the Irwin Acres subdivision between Oregon and Byron. Photo by Earleen Hinton
Caption
Flood waters from the Rock River rise into a summer home in the Rock River Terrace, north of Oregon. Photo by Earleen Hinton

Local emergency workers were holding their breath Tuesday, as more rain fell on the already flooded Rock River and its tributaries.

"What happens here will depend on how much rain they get up north of us. We're holding our own as of now," Ogle County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Candace Humphrey late Monday afternoon as weather forecasters predicted anywhere from a quarter to three-quarters of an inch more rain for the area.

"I just hope the river doesn't come back up," said Sharon Kersten, Emergency Services Manager of the Rock River Chapter of the American Red Cross.

In the wake of five inches of rain that fell April 17-18, Ogle County was added Monday to the list of counties already declared to be state disaster areas after heavy rains brought the Rock River out of its banks and to the highest level ever recorded.

Humphrey said the river crested at 17.1 feet at Byron early Saturday morning.

She said being included in the state disaster declaration makes the county eligible for help from the state in the wake of the record flooding.

"The state declaration opens the door for state resources to help with the clean up," Humphrey said Monday. It also means the county may be eligible for federal financial assistance if the flood damage is severe enough to qualify.

Gov. Pat Quinn included Ogle and Stark counties to the list of 42 already declared disaster areas. Others on the list are Adams, Brown, Bureau, Calhoun, Carroll, Cass, Champaign, Cook, DeKalb, Douglas, DuPage, Fulton, Greene, Grundy, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Jersey, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kendall, Knox, Lake, LaSalle, Livingston, Marshall, Mason, McDonough, McHenry, Mercer, Morgan, Peoria, Pike, Putnam, Rock Island, Schuyler, Scott, Tazewell, Whiteside, Will, Winnebago and Woodford.

The state disaster declaration makes available a wide variety of state resources that can help affected communities respond and recover from flooding. It came after assessments by emergency officials and the governor, and begins the process of securing federal relief.

Humphrey said the state resources now available include assistance and equipment from the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Illinois National Guard, and Illinois Department of Public Health, as well as other agencies.

Ogle County Sheriff Michael Harn said April 19 that several subdivisions near the river, including Irwin Acres and Rock River Terrace, north of Oregon, Brooks Isle, south of Oregon, and the Murray Subdivision, near Grand Detour, were flooded with their access roads impassable.

The heavy rains began in the early hours of April 17 and continued for more than 24 hours, swelling creeks and streams and flooding fields.

Tributaries of the Rock, like the Leaf River, Pine Creek, and Kyte Creek came out of their banks early April 18, but had receded somewhat by that night.

The river, however, continued to rise until it finally crested Saturday morning.

"Once the streams started to go down, the flooding issues were mainly along the Rock River," Humphrey said Tuesday.

She spent all day Monday assessing flood damage to see if it will add up enough to qualify the county for federal assistance.

By Tuesday morning, Humphrey said the river was receding but the affected subdivisions were still under water.

"The residents are cleaning up and trying to get their lives back together," she said.

The roads into the Murray Subdivision, Brooks Isle, and Irwin Acres remained flooded and impassable, she said.

Kersten also did a preliminary assessment of the damage on Monday.

"A lot of homes are surrounded by water and several are inaccessible right now," she said Tuesday morning. "We haven't received any calls for help, but the residents in the flooded areas are used to this and know how to take care of themselves."

Because of the high water, Kersten said she was unable to determine if any homes had flood waters on the main floors.

She said she will return to the flooded areas to do a final damage assessment once the water has gone down sufficiently.

For more information about the flood or available assistance visit www.oglecountyema.org and click on the Facebook link on the right.

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