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Article updated: 4/12/2013 5:50 PM

Fox River and Chain-area residents watching, waiting

By Lee Filas

Officials in Fox Lake and around the Chain O' Lakes are watching water levels and scanning weather reports, bracing for the start of spring flooding.

Residents in low-lying subdivisions -- Fox River Springs in Antioch Township and Knollwood Park in Fox Lake -- have sandbags on standby should the water rise this weekend. Village officials created 15 pallets of sandbags for residents.

However, while early indications Friday were the situation would worsen with a storm forecast to drop another 1 to 2 inches of rain, emergency management officials later said things may not be that bad.

"Right now, it looks like we may just skirt by," said C. Kent McKenzie, Lake County Emergency Management coordinator. "But, we'll have to wait and see how everything plays out."

The ground is saturated from heavy March rains and melting snow, leaving two weeks of heavy rain in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin with no place to go, McKenzie explained. The run off has contributed to rising water levels on the Fox River in New Munster, Wis., peaking at more than three-feet over flood stage, he said.

All that water is rushing toward the Chain, and is expected to push to the top and possibly over the shoreline, McKenzie said.

"Right now, it's just a minor inconvenience for homeowners," Fox River Springs resident John Schmidtke said Friday near an area where the Fox River had overflowed its banks, run across the roadway, and pooled in a nearby field. "When you live by a river, you get minor inconveniences like this now and then."

The water also pooled around the house that sits lowest in the subdivision, but it was held back by the building's tall foundation.

No fish were visible yet, but that area has seen its share of carp in past years, Schmidtke noted.

"We've been in contact with emergency management and the IDNR (Illinois Department of Natural Resources), and we expect water levels to remain a minor inconvenience throughout the weekend," he added.

Rita Lee, a water hydraulist for the IDNR, said if no additional rain falls this weekend, water levels on the Chain will crest near one foot over flood stage by Monday morning.

That would equal flood totals in 2004, and likely result in water on the lawns in traditionally flood-prone areas, but not affecting homes.

The concern Friday was a second, much larger storm system that was forecast Monday into Tuesday. That stronger storm -- initially thought to be capable of dumping up to 2 inches of rain during a 24-hour span -- could have boosted water levels to 2.5 feet over flood stage, equal to floods recorded in 2008 that damaged some 400 homes.

McKenzie said new forecasts show that storm will arrive Sunday night, but slip south of Lake County and not dump nearly as much rain as thought.

"Because of it, the forecast levels of the Chain dropped slightly, and we will crest much sooner than initially thought," he said.

McKenzie cautioned that weather is unpredictable and the storm could shift again, so officials are watching it carefully.

"Everything really depends on the rain right now," he said. "It all depends on how saturated the ground is and how much water falls."

McKenzie said the situation is not as worrisome on the Des Plaines River.

He said the river is on the edge of flood stage, but water levels do not start to affect lawns and houses until it rises another two feet in Gurnee.

"The Des Plaines doesn't seem to be a problem right now," he said. "Right now, all our focus is on the Fox."

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