ALGONQUIN – Thousands of sandbags were distributed Thursday throughout McHenry County as the Illinois Department of Natural Resources predicted the Fox River would continue to rise over the weekend.
Algonquin resident Brett Green had more than 500 sandbags lined up outside his home on Beach Drive as of Thursday afternoon, and planned to add to the wall in preparation for Saturday.
“In 2013 I was here for that, too, and we battled to protect the cabin,” Green said. “But they’re saying it will be a little bit more, so we’ll battle a little more.”
Fox River flooding is expected to be worse than in 2008 and 2013, when the river reached 10.72 feet at the Algonquin tailwater, according to the IDNR.
Flood prevention efforts are taking place countywide with township highway departments – including Algonquin, Burton, McHenry and Nunda – offering sandbags to residents. Residents can pick up the bags at their local township facilities, and contact their area township highway department for additional information.
The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Fox River at the Algonquin tailwater Wednesday. Flood stage at the tailwater is 9.5 feet. As of 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the Fox River was recorded at 10.78 feet, causing minor flooding in the floodplain.
With the Fox River expecting to rise to 13 feet by Tuesday morning, more than 70 Algonquin-area properties will likely be affected by significant flooding this weekend, Algonquin Assistant Village Manager Mike Kumbera said.
Village of Algonquin Public Works employees had been working since Wednesday night to distribute sandbags to residents around the river to try to prevent significant flooding.
Steve Ludwig, general services superintendent for the village of Algonquin Public Works Department, said the village has maps and survey information that shows where the high-water levels are going to be, which gives the department a good idea where it’s going to rise most.
Based on previous floods, Ludwig said the village knows which properties are more likely to bring on water and where to stage the sandbags. Sandbags were deployed to five locations adjacent to the river so residents can use the bags to protect their homes.
Ludwig said the sandbag operation got up and running about 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Algonquin Public Works facility.
“So we spent [Wednesday] loading in 15 to 20 large dump truck loads full of sand,” Ludwig said. “It’s all hands on deck to try and get this work done and try and get the citizens to protect their homes to the best of our abilities.”
The Algonquin operation had produced and distributed more than 3,000 sandbags as of 6 a.m. Thursday, and the village’s goal is to fill about 17,000 sandbags by the end of Friday, Kumbera said.
On Thursday, the village had more than 20 workers working in the sandbag operation, and Friday morning, people from the Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network will be deployed to assist in the sandbagging efforts.
“While we have a terrible thing happening to people and their properties, I think the silver lining that it really brings people together,” Ludwig said. “It’s amazing how people from the neighborhood, to public works, to elected officials, to private businesses, to contractors, all come together and volunteer to take care of each other.”
Although there were no street closures as of 5 p.m. Thursday, Cornish Park and Towne Park were closed to the public.
“As the flood develops and if it gets near crest, we anticipate closing Riverfront Park as well,” Kumbera said. “It could be as soon as [Friday], but at some point we plan on it closing.”
Algonquin resident Camm Hendricks said his property at Rattray Drive near the river has flooded five times in the past 11 years.
“It happens all the time here,” Hendricks said. “I’m leaving. I’m going to move after this.”
Hendricks said his home is in such a bad spot that sandbags will hardly have an effect on stopping the flooding.
“In 2013, when we had that flood, water came up to my front door,” Hendricks said. “And it sounds like it will be even worse this time.”
Algonquin Deputy Police Chief Ryan Markham is asking the public to obey potential road closure signage, avoid parks and stay off the river this weekend.
“Don’t think that you can travel through a road with resting water on it, or there could be a lot of problems with stalled vehicles,” Markham said.
The McHenry County Department of Health is warning people that floodwater also can contain organisms that may cause a disease and to watch for surface water entering private wells and contaminating the drinking water.
The public also is asked to make sure to check for safety hazards, such as leaking gas or electrical problems, before entering a flooded home or basement.
Lake County also was hit hard by recent storms, and a state of emergency was proclaimed for the county Wednesday night because of severe flooding.