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The waiting begins

 
By Pete Spitler
Staff Writer
Posted on 12/31/2015, 8:57 AM

CHESTER -- The Great Flood of 1993 can breathe a sigh of relief, its record appears safe.

In a Wednesday afternoon update on the situation, the National Weather Service lowered the forecasted crest of the Mississippi River at Chester to 47.5 feet, 2.2 feet lower than predicted earlier in the morning and 2.4 feet lower than first predicted at the storm’s end on Monday.

Twenty-two years ago, the river crested at 49.7 feet, currently the highest recorded.

“I think the most important thing today is that the levees are not failing,” said Randolph County EMA spokesman Larry Willis, who gave a situation briefing to the media during Wednesday’s regular meeting of the Randolph County Board.

In an emailed update later Wednesday, Willis said Randolph County emergency managers, levee district commissioners and the Army Corps of Engineers were expressing “cautious optimism” that all of the levees will continue to hold.

“Mudslides and sand boils are being addressed on the Kaskaskia Island and Fort Chartres, Modoc-Prairie du Rocher, Ivy Landing and Prairie du Rocher Creek levees,” Willis wrote.

Across flood-prone areas of Randolph County, the waiting has begun.

Two days after a state of emergency declaration by County Board Chairman Dr. Marc Kiehna, sandbagging efforts continued in Evansville and Prairie du Rocher, which are two of the battleground areas in the “Flood of ‘15.”

In Evansville, village residents and volunteers made a makeshift sandbag dam next to Schenks Market on Liberty Street to try and fight back the advancing Kaskaskia River.

Bordering the dam was the more than 100-year-old house of Janet Wolff, which was heavily impacted in the Flood of 1993.

“It barely survived the Flood of ‘93 and we’re trying to save it this time,” said caretaker Chris Nuyt, who was trying to get a generator operational alongside the dam. “We’ve got a couple of pumps downstairs and electricity, but we’ve got a generator in case the electricity goes in the next night or so.”

Elsewhere, the parade of Illinois Department of Transportation trucks continued. Willis told the media that 10,000 sandbags had been delivered to add to the 2,000 sandbags already on hand.

An additional 10,000 sandbags were ordered Wednesday.

Unlike the Flood of 1993, which consisted of weeks of gradually rising river crests, the Flood of ‘15 has evolved at a much quicker pace - with federal and state officials fighting to keep up.

“Here we are in three days trying to get this together and we think we’ve done it,” Kiehna said.

Jarrod Peters, chief deputy at the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office, reported 27 people had signed up on his agency’s volunteer list.

Interested persons are now being directed to the county’s website (www.randolphco.org) to keep lines free at the sheriff’s office for potential emergencies. Click on the flashing “Flood Warning” button and follow the links for more information.

IDOT and local officials were also keeping an eye on rain-swollen Nine Mile Creek between Evansville and Ellis Grove on Route 3.