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High waters wreak havoc on McHenry County roadways

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 11:41 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2013 11:54 p.m. CDT

All-day rains Wednesday caused all-day headaches Thursday as water spilled onto McHenry County roadways and yielded delays and closures.

A storm system that brought rains totaling as much as 5 inches by Thursday morning produced off-and-on drizzles throughout the day, as motorists navigated standing water in the county.

Closures on major roadways, including Route 31 and Algonquin Road in Algonquin, caused further problems.

By Thursday afternoon, McHenry County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill had declared the county a disaster emergency area, a status that will last until April 24 unless extended by the McHenry County Board.

But problems caused by the heavy rains stretched outside of the county, affecting much of the upper two-thirds of Illinois and parts of surrounding states. Water levels were expected to break a long-standing record in Des Plaines, one of the hardest hit suburbs.

About 60 miles southwest of Chicago in Grundy County, Morris Hospital was forced to evacuate 44 patients. Travelers at both airports experienced canceled and delayed flights. A sinkhole in Chicago swallowed three cars Thursday morning.

Across the region, efforts were being made to lessen the damage.

The Fox River had risen to 11.93 feet by 9 p.m. Thursday and is expected to reach 13.4 feet by the time it crests Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service. In McHenry, the river had reached 6.24 feet at 9 p.m. Both of those figures are just short of what is considered major flooding in the areas – 12 feet and 7 feet, respectively.

A flood warning for the Fox River in Algonquin remains in effect until further notice. The declaration by Hill allows the county to receive state assets for assistance, according to a press release from the McHenry County Emergency Management Agency.

Nunda Township pulled together volunteers Thursday afternoon, and by 8 p.m. had filled about 15,000 sandbags at the Highway Commissioner’s Office, according to Donna Kopsell, who works at the office.

The group had acquired lights and was planning on working into the night.

“As long as it takes,” Kopsell said. “Tomorrow we’ll be back and doing the same thing.”

She said they planned on filling about 40,000 bags in all.

Those efforts are needed for people like Jim Machnik, who lives on the Fox River in McHenry. He said the water had come over the seawall by Thursday afternoon.

“About a foot and a half over normal,” Machnik said. “No damage yet, but certainly getting scary. Piers are starting to float away.

“Another foot, and we’ll see some serious damage,” he added.

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