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Marseilles under water after barges hit dam, levee breached

Published: Saturday, April 20, 2013 4:59 a.m. CDT

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MARSEILLES — Roughly 1,000 residents in this town of 5,100 have been evacuated due to severe flooding after several barges broke away and crashed into a dam in the Illinois River.

Mayor Patricia Smith declared a state of emergency for the city.

The area near the river was submerged in water and was closed to all non-emergency personnel. The river is still rising, Commissioner Bob Davis said at midday Friday.

“Hopefully it’ll be no more than another eight to 10 inches,” Davis said.

According to Davis, emergency crews are trying to contain the flooding, adding that all areas they have sandbagged have remained in tact.

The barges are still against the dam, he said, and will likely remain there until water levels recede. Davis said officials are hoping that will happen early next week.

He stressed the word “hopefully.”

One of the evacuations was at Rivershores Nursing Home.

“That evacuation went smoothly,” he said.

Davis said there has been flooding before, but that the levee has not been breached since the 1930s. He said the city has done what it could in the face of unique conditions.

“We had a plan in place and we followed it,” Davis said. “Now Mother Nature is doing her thing.” Marseilles was among the worst hit in the area by flooding in the wake of massive rainfall Wednesday into Thursday.

Here is how other area towns are coping with conditons:

Seneca

Kathy Angelakos, emergency management coordinator for Seneca, said flooding has receded in some areas, but that by late afternoon Friday the river was still an issue.

Part of the problem is that the river had still yet to crest.

But, Angelakos said, there has been an outpouring of help from community members working to combat the conditions.

“We’ve had quite a few volunteers filling sandbags,” she said.

Angelakos also addressed false rumors she said had been going around that the bridge was closed in Seneca and that residents did not have potable water.

The bridge is open, Angelakos said, and the city had advised residents to try to minimize water and sewer usage to prevent further flooding.

Angelakos said residents could monitor current conditions on the city’s Facebook page.

Coal City

A few Coal City roads were closed earlier, but — according to Nicholas Doerfler, spokesman for the Coal City Fire Department — there was no major flooding.

All of those roads are open now, Doerfler said Friday afternoon.

The department there assisted other departments in evacuations, including Thursday’s evacuation at Ravine Woods apartment complex in Morris, where residents got out of their homes via rowboat.

One concern for the Coal City Fire Department had been whether or not they could transport anyone to Morris Hospital, said Doerfler, a firefighter and paramedic.

That did not become a problem, he said.

Mazon

Most roads on the south side of Mazon had been impassable, according to Mazon Fire Chief Mark Brookman.

But as of Friday afternoon, things were improving and all roads were back open.

“Everything is getting back to normal now,” Brookman said.

Channahon

Things are also improving in Channahon, where some roads remained closed late Friday afternoon. Deputy Chief Jeff Toepper said Bridge Street would be open by Friday afternoon.

There were some evacuations Friday morning, but Toepper said they hoped those displaced would be back in their homes by 6 p.m. Friday evening.

Water had rushed over a section of the dam at the State Park’s Channahon access. Homes in the vicinity of the park along Canal and Story streets and further south on Blackberry Lane were being evacuated, said Channahon Police Detective Adam Bogart.

At least 21 occupants, just from the apartment complex on Blackberry Lane, had to leave.

A portion of the dam where the Du Page River and I & M Canal cross is eroding. As a result, Illinois Department of Natural Resources workers were out with heavy equipment trying to shore it up.

Concrete jersey barriers and sand bags were brought to the scene to reinforce the dam.

Minooka

There were a number of evacuations in Minooka, said Ken Briley, emergency management agency director for the village.

Those evacuated Thursday were back in their homes Friday, he said.

But there were more evacuations required Friday as flood waters rose over Cemetery Road between Minooka and Morris.

Those evacuations ended at 1:45 p.m. Friday and were successful, Briley said. Those displaced by Friday’s evacuations were taken to a shelter and Briley said he hoped they would be able to return to their homes Saturday.

As of Friday afternoon, Interstate 55 at Interstate 80 remained closed, while many of the roads near Aux Sable Creek reopened once the creek waters receded, Briley said.

One exception was Wilde Road.

According to Briley, the flood waters washed it away. ———

Shaw Media Correspondent Kris Stadalsky contributed to this report.

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