FOX RIVER GROVE – Five days after Janet and Doug McAllister moved their belongings into their dream getaway home on the Fox River, they had to remove everything again and start battening down the hatches.
The Fox River is expected to reach record high levels, and it already has caused major flooding throughout Lake and McHenry counties. The state of Illinois has declared disaster areas in Lake, McHenry, Kane and parts of Cook counties as a result of the existing flooding and expected increase.
The McAllisters’ home had not been damaged by the water as of Sunday afternoon, thanks to about 600 sandbags and six water pumps they had to control flooding around the house.
“The pumps are what will make the difference,” Janet McAllister said. “We knew flooding was possible, but the 2013 flood was called a 100-year flood, and this one is going to be worse than that. … This is unheard of.”
Neighbor Kris Matteson echoed McAllister’s sentiments. Her house sits on a foundation and had not been damaged Sunday, although the grass lot across the street was more than a foot underwater.
“I have been here 16 years, and it’s never been this bad,” Matteson said. “This is terrible.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner came to McHenry County to see the damage Sunday. State personnel are standing by if municipalities request help in the coming days, he said.
“The flooding can be significant, and we may be calling for evacuations,” he said. “We ask all residents to not drive or walk in flood areas. … It can be very dangerous.”
He urged residents to stay aware of the situation by using the state-established website, www.ready.il.gov
“We need to be ready, and we need to be watching the situation,” Rauner said.
The state has provided about 550,000 sandbags to affected areas. In Algonquin, 500 volunteers have filled 25,000 bags, Village President John Schmitt said.
“We have been through this before,” he said. “We have had other floods. We have gotten better and better at managing the emergency response, with our team as well as with the county and the state.”
The Fox River at the McHenry dam was at 7.32 feet Sunday night. Flood stage is 4 feet. The river at the Algonquin tailwater had reached 12.21 feet and flood stage is 9.5 feet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Fox Waterway Agency officials said Sunday that the inflow at the Chain O’ Lakes had crested and was falling faster than expected. Fox Lake appeared to have crested Sunday as well, which could be good news, according to the agency.
“We are still in unprecedented territory, but we are doing our best,” Fox Waterway Agency Executive Director Joe Keller said. “We are able to get out more than is coming in. It continues to rise when you can’t get out what is coming in.”
He added that he would rather have residents be safe than sorry.
“We have seen signs that we are hitting crest level, and that is good, but that could change,” he said. “If we get rain in the next two or three days, it could go up. I’d rather have people prepare for more.”