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IL sees flooding

Officials are now estimating that several hundred homes were damaged.

BY HEATHER MOYER | ROCKFORD, Ill. | September 7, 2006

Officials are now estimating that several hundred homes were damaged by Monday's flooding in Rockford, Illinois.

Rockford Mayor Lawrence Morrissey said estimates now show 20 homes destroyed and several hundred others with severe damage. Damage estimates for public and private entities will total in the millions of dollars, he said.

Heavy rain drenched the area late Monday afternoon, dropping four to five inches in a short period of time. Fire officials report the hardest hit areas of the city were around Keith Creek, in the Rolling Green and Churchill Park neighborhoods.

Some homes were reported to have at least three feet of water in them at the height of the flooding, and many foundation failures are reported as well. Close to 700 families remain displaced from their homes, with some staying at a former school now turned shelter. Many businesses also suffered damage from the flooding.

More than 4,800 homes and businesses have been surveyed for damage so far, and Morrissey noted that the governor declared a state of disaster for Rockford and Winnebago County. "(Federal Emergency Management Agency) officials will arrive Friday to do more assessments," he said.

City officials are also figuring how just how many affected residents were insured and who will need further help. Because one hard hit neighborhood was home to many elderly citizen, Morrissey said he worries whether the recovery will be more difficult there.

Rockford residents had little time to prepare or react to Monday's flooding, with the fast-rising water even surprising National Weather Service officials. Morrissey said rain was expected, but no one knew that much would fall so quickly. Thankfully the water receded as quickly as it rose.

"Thank God we didn't suffer any loss of life or serious injuries," said Morrissey.

Now the recovery begins, and the Mayor said he's impressed by how the community has united. A local church offered its building for a shelter, and the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army are both offering assistance to the affected families.

Help from unaffected Rockford citizens and out-of-towners is pouring in as well, added Morrissey. "We're receiving a tremendous amount of support from people."

Flood cleanup events are planned for the weekend, and Morrissey encourages those who want to help to either volunteer or donate money to the assisting agencies. He added that as the needs change, the city will continue letting the public know how they can most appropriately help the affected families.

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