Chicago suburbs fight flooding threat

More rain pushed flood waters higher in northern Illinois , threatening further havoc in a region where days of torrential thunderstorms have swamped thousands of homes and left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity.

Chicago suburbs fight flooding threat
In this Chicago suburb, about 300 people piled sandbags against 4-foot-high concrete barriers, aided by backhoes and bulldozers, but they didn't know whether it would be enough to hold back the rising Des Plaines River.

"It's just getting worse," Fire Chief Don Gould said. "All these people will be flooded out if we don't move quick."

A storm carrying heavy rain and high winds Thursday knocked down thousands of trees and tree limbs around metropolitan Chicago and left more than half a million utility customers without power. About 148,000 remained without electricity Friday night, said ComEd spokeswoman Anne Prammaggiore.

In Dyer, Ind., southeast of Chicago, authorities began evacuating St. Margaret Mercy Hospital as water from a creek behind the building began seeping in. About 70 patients were being moved to other hospitals, spokeswoman Maria Ramos said.

Authorities cut power to the hospital as a precaution, and police and firefighters went door to door in Dyer telling people to leave.

Parts of Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota, meanwhile, continued cleaning up after earlier flooding. Nearly a week of powerful storms, heavy rain and devastating flooding across the Upper Midwest has damaged thousands of homes and been blamed for at least 17 deaths.

The storms in Illinois could be responsible for two additional deaths, officials said. The wind blew over a tree, killing a man in Victoria, and a relative found a man lying unconscious in more than 2 feet of water in his basement in Inverness, officials said.

Another round of storms had been forecast for Friday night, but weather officials later revised rainfall predictions to no more than half an inch and canceled flood watches for much of northern Illinois, said Casey Sullivan, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

"There's still a chance of rainfall, but we're not expecting as much and the potential for flash flooding is going away," Sullivan said.

No homes had been evacuated by Friday afternoon in Prospect Heights. The city is near O'Hare International Airport, but airport operations were not threatened.

Rising water on the Fox and Des Plaines rivers prompted authorities to increase the flood alert level for northern Lake County to red, the highest level. The Fox River was approaching 50-year levels, with flooding possible this weekend when water from rain-drenched Wisconsin arrives downstream.

Fifty-five miles west of Chicago in DeKalb, the Kishwaukee River reached near-record levels, spilling over its 15-foot levees, flooding neighborhoods and making bridges impassable.

About 600 residents of DeKalb and nearby Sycamore have been displaced, said DeKalb City Manager Mark Biernacki. Northern Illinois University's flooded DeKalb campus was closed.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared Cook, Lake, Kane and McHenry counties state disaster areas, a move that will help deliver state aid to those areas.

In lower Michigan, heavy storms swept through for a second day, spawning tornadoes that destroyed or damaged several homes. No injuries were reported Friday, although a motorcyclist was killed Thursday when his bike hit a fallen tree, authorities said.

The storms delayed a 7 p.m. game between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees at Detroit's Comerica Park, where a videoboard instructed thousands of fans to take cover in ramps, stairwells or concourses. The storm wave also left a trail of high water and power failures across northern Indiana.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator R. David Paulison surveyed damage Friday in Rushford, Minn., especially hard hit by flooding this week. Mayor Les Ladewig said about half of Rushford's 760 homes were damaged, including 248 that were destroyed and 91 with serious damage.

About 1,500 homes were damaged around the state, and Paulison said FEMA recovery centers should be running early next week in the three counties where President Bush declared disasters Thursday.

Paulison also visited Wisconsin, where flooding destroyed 44 homes and damaged more than 1,400, most of them in the southwestern part of the state. FEMA agreed to begin evaluating the damage Saturday, three days earlier than planned, after an appeal from Gov. Jim Doyle.

"The people are really suffering," said Donna Gilson, a spokeswoman for Wisconsin Emergency Management. "We have to move this along as fast as possible."

In Ottumwa, Iowa, heavy rain backed up the sewer system, threatening the water supply to the city of about 25,000. Residents were asked Friday to use tap water as little as possible; the city set up water distribution centers and portable toilets around town.

The latest rains have already made this the wettest month ever in Rockford, Ill., 80 miles northwest of Chicago, with nearly 14 inches in August. Chicago itself has endured its fifth-wettest August with 9.12 inches, the most since 2001, with a full week left to go in the month.

Ironically, Blagojevich cut more than $1 million worth of flood-control money out of the state budget before signing it into law Thursday. The cuts included $100,000 earmarked for a new levee in Prospect Heights, which Mayor Rodney Pace called "a kick in the shorts."

"There are a lot of people who are really upset," Pace said. "They're all out here sandbagging."

The governor didn't want to talk about cuts in the budget at an appearance Friday afternoon in northern Illinois. He said there have been increases for issues like flooding but didn't elaborate.


AP
Last Mod: 25 Ağustos 2007, 15:48
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