Flooding continues in river towns

Warm weather, ice flows, create new headaches for river communities.

BY BOND BRUNGARD | Pontiac, IL | January 29, 2008

Students from Indiana University help "mud-out" a home damaged by January flooding.
Credit: Dan Gangler

This stack of ruined furniture was piled outside a home near Lake Freeman after January flooding damaged the home and its contents.
Credit: Dan Gangler

Residents in northern Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana are keeping a wary eye on ice dams on nearby rivers even as they continue to clean up from damaging floods in early January.

In Will County, IL, emergency officials warned residents living near the Kankakee River last week that they should be prepared to leave their homes. Lynn Behringer, of the county's emergency management agency, said the river could rise this week to "major flood stage."

If the river reaches that high, it will threaten more than 50 homes.

And ice jams along the Rock River in Wisconsin between Beloit and Afton have produced moderate flooding of streets and homes.

Meanwhile, in Illinois communities like Pontiac, local clergy, municipal and emergency response leaders are trying to map out long term strategy to cope with the flooding that struck that community earlier this month.

Heavy rains started pounding central Illinois Monday, Jan. 7, and by Wednesday night, Jan. 9, the Vermillion River had crested at 18.81 feet, just short of a record set in 1982.

By Thursday, Jan. 10, about 100 homes had been evacuated, while others needed help on the north side of Pontiac.

As official assessments were continuing, the American Baptist Churches, USA, helped provide food to those in need. And the First Baptist Church in Pontiac operates a food pantry and is helping with those needs.

"We extended our hours and have offered vouchers to people, so they could buy perishables," said Jim Wolfe, pastor of the First Baptist Church.

Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) is organizing weekly meetings with business, clergy and municipal leaders to map out a long term recovery for the community, and Wolfe is one of the community leaders attending those meetings.

A survey will go out to those affected by the disaster, said Wolfe, so those respondents can be assigned a caseworker to help them with the recovery. Approximately two dozen parishioners in Wolfe's church were affected by the flooding.

"I'm learning along the way with the resources that are available," he said.

The Rev. Phillip Icemogle, pastor of the First United Methodist Church, was vacationing on a cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean when the flooding struck his community. He monitored the situation from the cruise and came home to help with the recovery.

The United Methodist's Midwest Mission Distribution Center near Springfield sent 300 flood buckets to help with the recovery, and Icemogle said his congregation will be working to help with the long term effort.

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