Highland News Leader

Water, water everywhere

Aerial photo shows closed section of Interstate 70 near Pocahontas.
Aerial photo shows closed section of Interstate 70 near Pocahontas.

Mother Nature poured out almost 6 inches of rain on the Highland area in three days, Saturday through Monday, according to News Leader weather watcher Jeff Menz.

Other areas got more. Greenville saw more than 8.5 inches during the same time frame.

Several area roads had to be closed due to swollen creeks overflowing their banks.

The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield was activated Monday morning to ensure state personnel and equipment are ready to be deployed quickly if needed to help local emergency responders as they deal with flooding and winter weather.

In the metro-east, that meant the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) placing barricades for road closures.

Locally, highly traveled roads closed due to flooding include:

▪ Interstate 70 in both directions in Bond County between the 36 and 45 mile markers, Pocahontas to Greenville;

▪ Illinois Route 143 at Silver Creek;

▪ Marine Road from Lake Road to Hunter School Road; and

▪ U.S. Highway 40 between Triad Road and Schaeffer Road.

‘Turn around, don’t drown’

No injuries were reported or water rescues were reported in the Highland area.

“Things are pretty quite in Highland so far,” Highland Police Chief Terry Bell said Monday morning.

That was not the case elsewhere.

The Edwardsville Fire Department rescued three people trapped by floodwaters Sunday night.

Two men and a woman in a pickup truck drove around the “road closed” sign on Old Carpenter Road Sunday and soon were trapped in the rising floodwaters, according to Fire Capt. James Whiteford.

The water had risen to their windshield wipers and the truck was hopelessly stuck, Whiteford said. They called 911, and firefighters responded wearing water rescue wetsuits at about 7 p.m. Sunday.

The three people were rescued, though one had to be carried due to disability issues. All three were suffering from hypothermia, but were successfully warmed in the ambulances and were released from the scene, Whiteford said.

He was not sure whether the truck could be removed, or whether it remained in the flooded-out roadway.

“If they’d been there much longer, they would have been seriously hypothermic,” Whiteford said.

Marion County Coroner Troy Cannon says an effort is continuing to identify the five Kentucky residents who drowned when trying to cross a low-water bridge on Farthing Road east of Patoka.

Each year, on average, more than 50 percent of all flood fatalities are vehicle-related, according to the National Weather Service. It only takes 12 inches of water to carry off a small car and 18 inches of water to sweep a larger vehicle away.

Official warn: Don’t risk driving into floodwaters.

“If you encounter water over a roadway, please remember, ‘Turn Around, Don’t Drown,’” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph urged motorists.

Police also cautioned drivers to take it slow when driving it such weather.

“In wet weather, stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads, because your tires have less grip on the road. Rain is blamed for thousands of accidents yearly in the United States. Many of these accidents are preventable, but motorists choose not to slow down,” said Illinois State Police District 11 Interim Commander Timothy Tyler.

Dunstan issues disaster declaration

Due to the excessive flooding throughout the county, Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan issued a local declaration of disaster on Monday.

At the chairman’s direction, the Madison County Emergency Operation Center was activated over the weekend and was working with communities throughout the county and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to address issues related to the flooding and deploying the necessary resources.

“Areas throughout Madison County have experienced devastating flooding, damage to roadways and water damage to our residents’ homes,” Dunstan said. “As a result of the flooding which has already occurred, the projected rise of the Mississippi River to near historic levels and the anticipation of additional problems, the county will remain in emergency response mode for the foreseeable future.”

Dunstan said the Wood River Levee District and the Metro East Sanitation District are in the process of installing flood control gates due to the rising river, which was set to hit major flood level on Monday. The levee districts were monitoring the flood protection systems and maintaining contact with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure the safe operations and stability of the flood risk management system.

“We have already deployed the county’s sandbagging equipment to the city of Alton, and sandbags have been distributed to municipalities who have requested them,” Dunstan said. “There were three evacuations of mobile home parks on Sunday due to localized flooding, the Chouteau Island Agricultural Levee, which protects more than 2,400 acres of undeveloped land, is expected to be topped later today (Monday).

“We’ve had sewer backups as a result of storm water getting into the sewer system, and widespread basement flooding, which has required emergency pumping operations.

“There are widespread road closures. I just want to stress that residents should use extreme caution when driving, especially after dark, and should use common sense.”

Wet Weather Travel Tips

▪ Make sure your vehicle is prepared for the wet weather. Have your tires, brakes, and windshield wipers checked to make sure they are in good working condition.

▪ Turn on your headlights. State law requires you to turn on your headlights when your windshield wipers are on due to weather conditions. With your headlights on, you are more visible to other motorists.

▪ Allow for more travel time. When the roads are wet you should drive at a slower speed. Also keep in mind that traffic will likely be traveling slower as well.

▪ Don’t try to drive through deep or rushing water. In some instances, it only takes a foot of standing water to stall a vehicle or two feet of rushing water to carry a vehicle away.

▪ Increase your following distance. Wet roadways and reduced visibility increases the amount of time it takes to safely stop your vehicle.

Source: Illinois State Police