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Quinn Visits Marseilles After Evacuations

Guy Stephens
  • Governor declares disaster area

  • Links to weather and flood information
  • Marseilles Elementary School closed

Governor Pat Quinn toured areas along the Illinois River in Marseilles. His visit also included stops in Ottawa and North Utica. He declared 44 counties disaster areas.
The LaSalle County community of Marseilles has evacuated as many as 1,500 residents -- everyone south of the east-west railroad line that bisects the city -- after the Illinois River breached the north bank levee.

The breach occurred following an incident Thursday night when nine barges broke loose from a tugboat and struck the dam just east of the Main Street bridge.

Connie Brooks of the LaSalle County Emergency Management Agency says the residents, including those in a nursing home, were evacuated late Thursday night. She says more flooding is expected in the community of 5,100 residents.

She says there were no reports of any injuries.

Credit Guy Stephens / WNIJ
Authorities have blocked roads in Marseilles leading to the area near the Illinois River.

Ann Smith says she seen a lot of bad floods since she moved to Marseilles in 1974, but nothing like this.

“No, never, ever been this high. I live on a hill so I’m OK, but people down here I’m very sad for.”

Marseilles Police Chief Jim Hovious says city officials were already watching the river rise and were concerned water would overtop a levee along the north bank of the Illinois River.

“So we began preparations at that time. Our mayor declared a state of emergency so we could get some help. And we began to ask people to prepare for evacuation.”

Then nine barges broke loose from their tow, slamming into the dam.

Credit Guy Stephens / WNIJ
The Marseilles Dam

“They damaged some of the gates which were open so they had to close them down. That made things progress faster. We were hoping we would have 2, 3 hours to get the evacuation done. In fact it was about half that.”

Along with homes, Hovious says an elementary school in the affected area has been flooded and will probably remain closed for some time. 

Hovious says about a third of the city is believed to be under threat, but to provide a cushion and keep back gawkers, the cordon has been extended, covering about half of the river town.

Credit Guy Stephens / WNIJ
The roofs of two sunken barges rise above the Illinois River. They and two others sank the night of April 18 and are resting next to the Marseilles Dam.

Credit Guy Stephens / WNIJ
The Illinois River Flows Through A Marseilles Neighborhood

Four of the barges sank. Hovious says they’re acting like a dam impeding the flow of the river, which is only aggravating the situation.

Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Ron Fournier says of the remaining barges, two were towed away before rising water and quickening currents made things too dangerous for crews to operate. Fournier says until the river goes down, and slows down, the effort to recover the other barges, and remove the ones that sunk, will be slow.

How long before the river drops is at present an open question. But for the residents of Marseilles watching the Illinois flow through their town, it can’t happen fast enough.

Credit Guy Stephens / WNIJ
One of nine barges that broke free from their tow and ran up against the Marseilles Dam.

44 counties declared disaster area

The declaration will expand access to state emergency resources. It also allows the state to formally pursue federal support.

“Illinois has seen an incredible level of devastation and reports indicate that conditions will get worse in the coming days. We want to ensure that every county gets the assistance they need and this declaration will give every affected community access to available resources." -- Gov. Pat Quinn

Counties included in the Governor’s declaration include: Adams, Brown, Bureau, Calhoun, Carroll, Cass, Champaign, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Fulton, Greene, Grundy, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Jersey, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, Marshall, Mason, McHenry, Mercer, Morgan, Peoria, Pike, Putnam, Rock Island, Schuyler, Scott, Tazewell, Whiteside, Will, Winnebago and Woodford.

Weather-related links

Below are links to weather-related websites, including area municipalities with information on road closings and other concerns.

National Weather Service

Illinois Emergency Management Agency

Local postings of road closures and flood information:

Aurora road closures

Batavia Public Works Department

DeKalb Public Works Department

Elgin sandbag information

Geneva road closures

You can also find more information at the following websites:

Boone County Emergency Management Agency

Kane County Emergency Management Agency

LaSalle County Emergency Management Agency

Lee County Emergency Management Agency

McHenry County Emergency Management Agency

Ogle County Emergency Management Agency

Rock County Wisconsin Emergency Management Agency

Stephenson County Emergency Management Agency

Winnebago County Emergency Management Agency

In Rockford, city leaders are assessing public infrastructures following the heavy rains, including monitoring water levels at the city’s many creeks drainage ways, and the Rock River.

In a news release, City Administrator Jim Ryan says residents should keep a close eye on the low areas surrounding their homes and basements.

The heavy rains have also caused additional damage to the city’s roadways, exposing more potholes and washing gravel and debris onto the roadways. Citizens are asked to call 815-987-5771 to report potholes or go to the Service Request portal on the City of Rockford website at www.rockfordil.gov.

To prepare for a flood, you should:

  • Avoid building in a flood-prone area unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
  • Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if susceptible to flooding.
  • Install "check valves" in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Contact community officials to find out if they are planning to construct barriers (levees, beams, floodwalls) to stop floodwater from entering the homes in your area.
  • Seal the walls in your basement with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.

Driving Flood Facts

  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
  • A foot of water will float many vehicles.
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.

-information from thecity of Rockford

Important information for dealing with the flood's aftermath

-from the Winnebago County Health Department

Disease Prevention Precautions

  • Do not drink water from private wells in the flooded areas. Contaminated flood waters may have impacted the private water wells in flooded areas, and the drinking water may not be safe to drink. 
  • Do not eat or drink anything exposed to flood water, or that may have gone bad due to lack of power to your refrigerator. Remember, “When in doubt, toss it out”. 
  • Minimize skin contact with flood water, especially cuts and sores. Keep them clean and covered.
  • No one should be in flood water; do not allow children to play in flood water. Remember, even shallow rapidly flowing flood water may sweep you off of your feet.
  • Keep contaminated objects, water and hands away from your mouth, eyes and nose.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and clean water, especially after bathroom use, before eating and immediately following contact with flood water or contaminated objects or surfaces.
  • If you have a private septic system, be aware that you may have trouble flushing your toilet if your yard is flooded. Depending on your specific septic system, the hydraulic pressure from the water in your yard may cause the toilet to back up into your house!

Injury Prevention Precautions

  • Do not walk or drive on flooded roads.
  • Turn off main power switches if necessary. Air out and wipe dry all appliances and electrical outlets exposed to water before use.
  • If you have fuel oil or gas systems, ensure tanks are secure and that all lines are free from breaks.
  • Wear rubber boots, gloves and an N95 or HEPA respirator mask during removal and cleanup.
  • Open windows if possible to ventilate and dry the area.  Fans can be used to help with drying.

Mosquito Prevention

•   The large amount of pooled water that remains after a flood provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes.  

•   Be sure doors and window screens are tight fitting and in good repair to keep mosquitoes out.

•   Drain standing water in old tires, tin cans, birdbaths, clean clogged gutters and any other places where

mosquitoes might breed.

Personal Health Reminders

It is critical to remember good, basic hygiene practices during this time.  Always wash your hands with soap and warm water that has been disinfected.  If you receive a puncture wound or a wound contaminated with feces or saliva, have a doctor or the health department determine whether a tetanus booster is necessary based on individual records. 

Contact your provider regarding any vaccinations needed. A tetanus booster is indicated if you were in direct contact with flood waters and you have not had a tetanus vaccination in the last 5 years.

General Cleaning Guidelines

Discard any contaminated objects that cannot be thoroughly washed or laundered. Wash contaminated surfaces and objects with warm, soapy water and disinfect with a bleach and water solution made of no more than 1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water.  For objects that would be damaged by bleach, use a home or laundry disinfectant. Make sure to read and follow label instructions. Do not use ammonia. Do not mix ammonia and bleach; the vapors are hazardous. Scrub and wash all objects in the affected area of your home, including clothes, exposed to flood waters. Use warm, not hot, tap water with soap.

Carpets and Rugs

Carpets and rugs that cannot be thoroughly dried and cleaned should be discarded and replaced.  If the damaged area is small, you may be able to save the carpet by cleaning the area with a mild detergent. There also are professional home cleaning services that may be able to clean your carpets.

Floors, Drapes and Furniture

Floors and hard surfaces should be cleaned with a bleach and water solution made of no more than one cup of bleach per one gallon of water, or use a household disinfectant.  A professional cleaner may be able to clean furniture and drapes.


Safety is the primary consideration; never enter a flooded basement unless the electrical power is turned off! Turn off gas at the meter also. Wait to pump until flood waters have receded below basement level. Pump out standing water and remove all debrisAllow debris to drain before disposal. Strain away all liquids from trash. After straining trash, wrap in newspaper and store in garbage cans with a tight lid until pick up. 

Paneling and wallboard must be immediately cleaned and dried thoroughly.  If the damage is severe, they should be removed and replaced.

Food and Water Safety

If you are on private water well in flooded areas, use only bottled water for drinking, cooking, tooth brushing and bathing until you are sure the water supply is safe. Discard food exposed to contaminated waters. If refrigerators or freezers have taken in water, discard food stored there. If no water entered these appliances, but power was lost long enough for foods to thaw, discard all partially thawed foods unless prepared immediately. Discard milk, cheeses and other foods prone to spoilage. Completely thawed meats and vegetables should be discarded without question. Discard all bulging or leaking canned food and any food stored in jars. Undented, intact cans can be cleaned with a bleach solution before use.

Residents can call the Winnebago County Health Department and speak with an Environmental Health Professional who will help answer flood related health questions. The Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) Environmental Health telephone number is 815-720-4100. WCHD will be available during normal business hours (8 am to 5 pm Monday thru Friday). For special needs after hours and weekends you may call (815) 720-4000. 

For more information regarding personal health and safety precautions during and after a flood, log onto the Winnebago County Health Department’s web site at wwww.wchd.org.