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Flooding, Severe Storms Wreak Havoc On Tri-County Area

The Fon du Lac Park District’s Marine Law Enforcement Unit assisted the Woodford County Sheriff’s Office and Roanoke Fire Department in rescuing residents stranded Wednesday by rising flood waters.";s:

Residents and public officials are assessing the damage as they recover from a series of storms that produced near-record rainfall, flooding and some tornadoes across the Tri-County area Wednesday afternoon.

Daryl Onton, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Lincoln, said several inches fell over the span of a just few hours.

“That did cause some widespread flooding through the Peoria metropolitan area, as well as into especially Woodford County, and some of East Peoria, and northern Tazewell County,” Onton said.

One tornado briefly touched down near South Pekin. At least two other touchdowns were reported in Tazewell County. The heavy rainfall also led to flash flooding in many locations, with a video posted on Facebook showing motorists driving through more than a foot of water on the Bob Michael Bridge.

Onton said Wednesday’s total fell a bit short of the all-time single-day rainfall record set in 1950 at Peoria International Airport. But up to a foot of water was reported on roads in Pekin and East Peoria. Many rural roads in Woodford County were still flooded Thursday morning.

“Typically when we get these really heavy amounts, it’s because of multiple rounds and persistent thunderstorms, not just the rate of rainfall,” Onton said. “Even though the rainfall rate can be high sometimes, if it moves through fairly fast, you don’t see nearly the rainfall totals that we saw.”

Turn around, don't drown

Peoria firefighters and paramedics responded to numerous storm-related calls, with people needing to be rescued from their vehicles. Water on Knoxville Avenue was more than 3 feet high in some areas between Forest Hill and Nebraska Avenue.

Fire Chief Tony Ardis stressed that motorists should never attempt to proceed through standing or pooling water, emphasizing the public service slogan, “Turn around, don’t drown” as “words of wisdom.”

“You never want to drive through standing water,” Ardis said. “First off, you don’t know how deep it is and usually when you realize how deep it is, it’s too late because you’re already stuck in it.

“A lot of people think that since we’re in an urban setting that there’s not a danger of either sledding out or even drowning in certain cases. That’s just not accurate and it is as last night was in a testament to that.”

The flooding also caused the roof of a Peoria daycare center to collapse. Firefighters responded to the 123 You ‘N Me Preschool on Detweiller Drive around 3 p.m. About 100 children and staff were moved to safety and no injuries were reported.

Roanoke received 6.65 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, according to the NWS. The Fon du Lac Park District’s Marine Law Enforcement Unit assisted the Woodford County Sheriff’s Office and Roanoke Fire Department in rescuing residents stranded by rising flood waters.

The village sent out text messages Thursday looking for anybody over the age of 16 to assist with clean-up labor, paying minimum wage. It also said it has clean-up kits available. 

The aftermath was keeping Peoria-area water damage restoration companies very busy. Steven Fleming, general manager of ServiceMaster of Central Illinois in East Peoria, said his company received nearly 100 calls for service after the storms.

“People had sump pump failures, water coming in through egress windows--things like that,” he said. “We’re pretty overwhelmed.”

Fleming said any amount of water damage larger than just the corner of a basement is cause for concern.

“Mold starts to develop after 72 hours, in ideal conditions,” he said. “That’s going to be a bigger problem than what the water is.”

It’s also more costly than getting water aired out properly, he said.

To prevent future damage, Fleming said, homeowners need to do what they can to keep water as far away from the foundation as possible.

“Make sure your sump pumps are working properly, you’ve got a battery backup,” Fleming said. “Make sure your gutters are cleaned and cleared, and the down spouts are not bent up.”

Estimates of damage costs were not yet available Thursday. A spokesperson for Country Financial said the company had received just over 50 claims in the Bloomington-Peoria region early Thursday, most related to flooding or sump pump failure as well as some wind damage and lightning strikes.

“We ask our clients to either notify their rep or to call (the company hotline) to begin the claims process,” said public relations specialist Chris Coplan. “Then at that point a claims adjuster would be assigned to their claim so that they can come out and inspect or ask any questions that are needed.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.
Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.
Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.