Huge rainfall causes soggy aftermath

2013-04-19T21:00:00Z 2013-04-19T22:28:58Z Huge rainfall causes soggy aftermathThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 19, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

A day after most of rain had ended, the effects of one of the larger spring storms in years were still being felt.

The Bishop Ford Freeway remained closed Friday afternoon from 130th to 147th streets due to standing water on the road, Illinois State Police said.

The closures caused long delays in both directions, according to police, as motorists tried to find alternatives during Friday's evening commute.

According to the National Weather Service, total rainfall from what it called the April 17 and 18 rain event was measured at 5.59 inches in Burnham, while 4.37 inches fell in Homewood and 4.22 inches fell in Lansing. Crete registered 2.74 inches.

The storm created problems throughout the state as well.

Flood fighters from small Mississippi River hamlets to the western suburbs staged a feverish battle Friday to hold back raging rivers, after days of torrential rains soaked much of the Midwest.

Mississippi River communities in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri are expected to see significant flooding — some near-record levels — by the weekend, a sharp contrast to just two months ago when the river was approaching record lows. Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana had flooding, too. All told, dozens of Midwestern rivers were well over their banks after rains that began Wednesday dumped up to 6 inches of new water on already saturated soil.

In Quincy, Ill., the normally slow to swell Mississippi River rose nearly 10 feet in 36 hours, National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Fuchs said. One bridge in the town about 120 miles north of St. Louis was closed Friday, leaving one open.

"That's pretty amazing," Fuchs said of the fast-rising river. "It's just been skyrocketing."

Smaller rivers in Illinois seemed to be causing the worst of the flooding. In suburban Chicago, which got up to 7 inches of rain in a 24-hour period ending Thursday, record levels of water were moving through the Des Plaines River past heavily populated western suburbs and into the Illinois River to the south.

As many as 1,500 residents of the northern Illinois city of Marseilles were evacuated Thursday night when fears of a levee breach were heightened as seven barges broke free from a towing vessel and came to rest against a dam on the Illinois River.

And in the central Illinois town of London Mills, the swollen Spoon River topped a levee, forcing about half of the 500 residents to evacuate. Police Chief Scott Keithley said some homes were half under water, and abandoned cars were sent floating in the torrent of water.

Mississippi River flooding wasn't as pronounced as its water level varies greatly but is typically highest in the spring, so minor flooding is not uncommon. "Flood stage" is a somewhat arbitrary term that the National Weather Service says is the point when "water surface level begins to create a hazard to lives, property, or commerce."

When river levels exceed flood stage by several feet, serious problems can occur. Just days ago, the Mississippi was well below flood stage. Forecasters now expect it to climb up to 12 feet above flood stage at some spots in Missouri and Illinois.

Already, high water has closed hundreds of roads and swamped hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland as planting season approaches. Transportation officials are planning to close the bridge at Louisiana, Mo. — about 75 miles north of St. Louis — at noon Saturday, citing rising water on the eastern approach.

After the devastating Mississippi River floods of 1993, the government bought out thousands of homes that were once in harm's way, tore them down and replaced them with green space where development is not allowed. New and bigger levees have been built, and flood walls reinforced.

On Friday afternoon, the Army Corps of Engineers said most of the locks and dams from the Quad Cities to near St. Louis were closed due to the flood, effectively halting barge and other traffic on that part of the Mississippi. Four Illinois River locks were also shut down.

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