DECATUR — Todd Garner expects to remain busy as the large amounts of rain that continued to fall Monday across most of Central Illinois was running out of places to go after hitting the ground.
For many area residents, Garner said the problems might just be getting started with over 6 inches of rain falling in some areas since Saturday morning.
“We've probably got 50 or so phone calls in the last two days, and we'll probably get them all week,” said Garner, vice president of Peerless Cleaners in Decatur. The company repairs water damage, mold, cleans carpet and air ducts, in addition to dry cleaning.
“There's so much ground water that we'll probably have sewer issues,” Garner said. “People continue to wash their clothes and, of course, they're taking showers, and there's nowhere for the water to go.”
Peerless crews have been working long days, Garner said. He thinks that will continue as long as the need is there.
The seemingly endless rain that persisted over the holiday weekend poured almost all day again Monday, increasingly causing flooding and more than a little inconvenience. Trees were uprooted in some areas and high winds led to power outages in spots.
Ameren Illinois activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate service restoration, logistical support and communications. Ameren deployed nearly 500 resources to restore power as winds, flooding and ice accumulation continued across the state.
The largest concentration of outages was north of Decatur in the Peoria and Galesburg areas, according to Ameren.
Street closures with water washing across roads has been one of the most widespread problems in and around Decatur.
Macon County Engineer Bruce Bird said crews had used up its approximately 40 “Water on Pavement” signs to warn drivers of spots where water appeared most dangerous. Some of it was running back into catch basins, but Bird said not all lanes of roads were open in some areas.
“We're looking to identify where the trouble spots are at and we'll have to wait until it stops raining for it to go down,” Bird said. “A lot of spots are like that.”
Bird said drivers should be on the lookout for water on roadways, particularly at night when it's dark and harder to see what's ahead. Don't outdrive the vehicle's headlights, he said.
The Decatur Police Department warned motorists to avoid underpasses, most of which are prone to flooding in heavy rains. If water is visible on the roadway, the police said not to try to drive through it as it might be much deeper than it appears.
Oakland Avenue from West Weaver Road to West Hickory Point Road was closed in Forsyth due to flooding. Travel was also discouraged in parts of Forsyth on Phillips Circle, East Barnett Avenue, Timber Lane, Surrey Lane, Woodland Drive, Weaver, Hickory Point and Hundley Road as some areas could be impassible especially for smaller vehicles.
Water was on roadways with closures reported elsewhere including in DeWitt, Douglas, Shelby, Christian, Effingham, Piatt, Coles and Fayette counties.
Officials in Douglas County were waiting for water to recede in some locations before being able to fully assess the situation, said Joe Victor, the county's emergency management agency director. Victor said almost all of the roads in Newman were underwater, with Illinois 130 in Villa Grove among the places with standing water and therefore closed.
The Tuscola Fire Department had to rescue a man from his vehicle over the weekend as he drove too far into standing water, Victor said. Water was standing on major highways with many rural roads down to one lane, Victor said.
He said power outages were reported Monday morning in southern parts of the county near Arthur and Arcola.
Elsewhere, the Harristown Fire Department was on the scene of downed wires on North Meridian Road for about 2 ½ hours about midday Monday. The roadway was blocked while Ameren crews repaired the break but the fire department said heavy rains and winds of over 40 MPH hampered the repairs.
Parts of Illinois 48 and other roads were reported flooded in Christian County.
The possibility of levees breaking on waterways was a concern for officials in some areas.
Fayette County Sheriff Chris Smith was watching levees south of Vandalia with a close eye using binoculars at times to get a better view. Smith said the possibility of U.S. 51 being flooded appeared likely with water either running over levees or having the levees break.
He said the Illinois Department of Transportation was prepared to deal with that situation but a long detour would exist if U.S. 51 were to be closed.
“It's a long ride out of the way,” Smith said. “The levees have broken before. At some point it has to quit raining.”
Deputies would keep an eye on what the Kaskaskia River was doing overnight, Smith said.
Stevens Creek in and around Decatur breached its banks and people reported “lakes” in their backyards, downed trees and flooded basements all over the area.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for DeWitt County on Monday afternoon as the county's Emergency Management Agency indicated a breach of a reservoir in Clinton appeared imminent due to the excessive heavy rain.
The reservoir that was in question is on the northeast side of Clinton north of North Street as Illinois 54 leaves town. Based on past failure of the reservoir, the possibility of flooding was predicted on Illinois Highways 54 and 10 if another failure were to occur.
The weather service expected flooding to linger for some time around the Clinton area. It was predicting an end to the rain across Central Illinois by late Monday, with temperatures remaining above freezing into the nighttime hours.
After a front passed, much colder weather is expected to be on the way, with highs closer to normal for this time of year and only in the 20s with lows in the teens Thursday and Friday.
The heavy rain didn't stop many shoppers from making their way to stores in the Outlets at Tuscola shopping center over the busy post-Christmas weekend, General Manager Morrie Mendenhall said. Parts of the center's parking lot were covered with water Sunday as Mendenhall checked to make sure all the drains were working properly. The water had gone down by Monday, he said.
“It didn't keep us from opening,” Mendenhall said. “The water has to have some place to go. Customers were still finding us a good stopping point off Interstate 57 as they were doing things like using gift cards on a busy shopping day.”
Some places were closed due to the weather conditions. Hiking and bike trails at Rock Springs Nature Center were closed due to flooding.
The Mount Zion Police Department also issued a warning to stay off the biking/walking trail between Westside Drive and East Florian Ave. as the section of trail was completely submerged with a dangerous current.
Sulphur Springs Road east of Traughber Road near Mount Zion was also closed due to flooding.
As the rain fell, a part of Decatur was dealing with a water main break that led to a boil order for water customers south of Decatur. The area included was from South Shores School on South Franklin Street Road to County Highway 30, or Elwin Road, and from south U.S. 51 to South Franklin Street Road.
As residents begin to cleanup from the storms, Garner said homeowners should replace their sump pumps every few years. Those with carpet in basements that get wet should call a professional, Garner said.
Home shop vacs just don't have the power to get water out of the carpet and the pad, he said.
“In a week or two weeks, they'll get a smell,” Garner said. “They'll grow mold on the back of the carpet padding. That water will wick up through the drywall an inch an hour.”
Eventually, Garner said it will seep into the trip and studs and even insulation. He said getting rid of that is a big and expensive undertaking.