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Relief arrives as Fox River water levels decrease

Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com
Team Rubicon Volunteer Anthony Celani of Madison, Wis. helps set up a fence at their mobile command center in the parking lot of Home Depot in McHenry Monday, July 24, 2017. Team Rubicon, a national disaster response nonprofit organization led by veterans, will be helping McHenry and Lake County residents affected by this month's floods. They plan to have around 40 volunteers helping for 30 to 45 days.
Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com Team Rubicon Volunteer Anthony Celani of Madison, Wis. helps set up a fence at their mobile command center in the parking lot of Home Depot in McHenry Monday, July 24, 2017. Team Rubicon, a national disaster response nonprofit organization led by veterans, will be helping McHenry and Lake County residents affected by this month's floods. They plan to have around 40 volunteers helping for 30 to 45 days.

Recovery and cleanup efforts have started as the flood levels on the Fox River begin to recede.

Aid from around the country is pouring into McHenry County to help residents with assessments and cleanups of affected properties, but the homes that got hit the hardest likely will have to wait until the end of the week to begin recovery efforts, said David Christensen, McHenry County emergency management agency director.

“Attitudes are a lot better since we had sunshine, cooler temperatures and water is going down,” he said. “But homes still have water on and around them. We aren’t quite ready to start recovery yet.”

After receiving rainfall between 1 and 2½ inches this past weekend, the water levels rose to more than 13 feet.

As of Monday evening, the water level was at 12.78 feet at the Algonquin tailwater and is predicted to drop to 11 feet by Sunday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Johnsburg Junior High School now is the home to volunteers from Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response organization. The group has 40,000 volunteers nationwide and 36 of them were sent to McHenry County recently to help launch what they call “Operation Fox Yeah.”

Carol McCoy, a retired city government employee and a member of the Team Rubicon Incident Management Team, works as the incident commander overseeing all the volunteers for the Fox River flood.

Rubicon will conduct damage assessments and provide muck-out operations and debris removal, she said.

Some of those damage assessments started Monday, McCoy said, but some efforts can’t start until water is completely removed from flooded basements.

Rubicon deemed the Fox River flooding a Type 2 situation in a ranking system that goes up to five, with one being the most severe, McCoy said.

This system determines how long the team will stay based on the number of volunteers available and the number of work orders requested. Volunteers are estimated to be in the county for more than a month, but this may change as the group receives more information.

“As we build that list of people who need help, we’ll start recruiting for more volunteers so we can match up our workforce with what needs to be done,” McCoy said.

Those seeking help from Rubicon can call the crisis cleanup hotline at 800-451-1954. Until the full need is assessed, Rubicon is not looking for any more volunteers. More information for those affected or otherwise can be found by stopping by Rubicon’s vehicle parked in the McHenry Home Depot parking lot, 2461 N. Richmond Road.

The Information Technology Disaster Resource Center also is stationed outside the Home Depot to supply any connectivity and technological needs that other cleanup organizations may need.

Inside the vehicle, called a Forward Operations Base, the nationwide nonprofit set up satellite and wifi and offers video to the volunteer organizations coming in, Operations Director Joe Hillis said. This also will give the group the ability to see weather updates.

Workers started setting up these resources Monday. Moving forward, they will work to aid the community with any other technology needs not met, whether this be providing other local volunteer organizations with tablets, home lines or anything else they need, Hillis said.

The Red Cross also opened a respite center at the Nunda Township office, 3510 Bay Road, Crystal Lake. Cleanup kits, food, light medical care and counselors will be available for anyone affected by the flood, Nunda Township Supervisor Lee Jennings said.

Jennings said that several hundred kits are on hand to help residents clean up as the river recedes. The township has distributed more than 150,000 sandbags since flooding started, Jennings said.

“It seems like need for sandbags has subsided, but if it rains again ... then you never know,” Jennings said.

The center will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and will extend days if needed, Jennings said.

• Northwest Herald reporter Brittany Keeperman contributed to this story.


Editor’s note: This story has been changed to reflect how many sandbags Nunda Township has distributed.

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