More floods expected in far-flung Illinois regions

By Sarah Ryan Rafi

Illinoisans in far-flung regions of the state sought sandbags and higher ground Sunday as authorities eyed rain-swollen rivers, and slowly rising water brought new worry to already soaked communities.

“We’re just biding the raising of the water and helping people who have to get their stuff out,” said George Askew, an alderman in Keithsburg, where multiple levee breaks prompted voluntary weekend evacuations.

Askew said water sat as high as 3 or 4 feet in some parts of the small Mississippi River community of 700 residents, about 35 miles southwest of Moline.

The National Weather Service said the river was expected to crest there Tuesday just above 25 feet. Flood stage in the area is 14 feet.

“A lot of basements are full of water, another foot will put it up into some of their homes,” Askew said.

While 15 counties remained designated state disaster areas, authorities said no deaths have been reported in connection with Illinois’ floods as of Sunday.

Not far north of Keithsburg, the Quad Cities Area American Red Cross balanced emergency response and preparation in two states. The group set up six area shelters, three of them on the Illinois side of the Mississippi, and put volunteers on high alert while distributing clean-up kits and financial assistance.

“Right now, Iowa is probably going to be more affected by the flooding, but we are operating on both sides of the river,” said spokeswoman Leslie Anthony. “I think it’s probably going to get a lot worse over the next couple of days and that’s when we’ll really beef up our presence.”

Also along the Mississippi, more than 400 members of the Illinois Army National Guard were activated to assist with sandbagging efforts in Quincy. There, the river is expected to crest midweek and the two-lane Memorial Bridge already has been closed. The Champ Clark Bridge about 50 miles south along the river also was closed.

River levels continued their ascent in the Rockford area, where the Red Cross reported at least 23 people took refuge in a shelter during the weekend.

Furious sandbagging efforts continued on the state’s northeast side, where the Fox River – expected to crest over the next week or so as waters roll down from Wisconsin – seeped into the village of Antioch and crept ever-closer to businesses and homes along main routes and subdivisions.

In southern Illinois along the Indiana border, Lawrence County authorities continued to monitor levees along the Wabash River but reported no new breaches Sunday. Levee breaks earlier in the week had flooded a campsite near Lawrenceville and forced the evacuations of roughly 200 homes.