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Article updated: 4/18/2013 5:57 PM

Hoping for a break in the rain, cleaning up the mess, in Tri-Cities

By Susan Sarkauskas

Like the rest of us, the Geneva public works director was grateful Thursday afternoon for a break in the rain.

And Dan Dinges was hoping the next wave would drop less than an inch of water on the town. "If we get less than 1 inch, we should be OK," he said. The midday lull in the rain gave detention and retention ponds a chance to drop.

Geneva Park District director Sheavoun Lambillotte was contemplating how much the district will have to do once the Fox River gets out of Island Park. The park was completely covered Thursday, she said. Facilities director Larry Gabriel told her the water was the highest he has seen in 16 years, even higher than the August 2007 flood that shuttered the park for almost a month and resulted in cancellation of a music festival.

"We won't have an opportunity to assess it until the water recedes, because it is too dangerous to go in," Lambillotte said.

She expects the playground chips will have washed away, that turf will be damaged, and that they will find dead fish in the flower beds. "I'm sure we will have some major cleanup," Lambillotte said.

Those flower beds were recently planted in anticipation of a ceremony the district was going to have this spring to dedicate the new north bridge. The park was closed last summer while the district replaced the bridge.

Across the river

Paul Ruby, the manager of the Herrington Inn in Geneva, got the call from his employees about 1:30 a.m. Thursday.

The Fox River was rising on the east side of the building, and storm sewers were backing up outside on the west side.

He called the city to see if they could do something about the sewers; a bilge pump was brought in.

As for the riverside, "I knew I had some time with that," Ruby said.

Around 6 a.m., Ruby put the word out to friends and social media contacts: Come on down and save the Herrington, by sandbagging. They spread the word on Facebook and Twitter and text messages, as did the city of Geneva.

At least four dozen people were still there as of 11 a.m., taking a break while more bags were delivered. They had already filled more than one dump truck's worth of sand into bags and lined them up along the hotel.

"It is amazing what a community can do," said Alderman Dawn Vogelsberg, a friend of Ruby's and organizer of the Paul Ruby Foundation Concert for a Cause, which raises money for Parkinson's disease research.

St. Charles

Streets were already beginning to dry out as of late Thursday afternoon. City officials announced the removal of several barricades to assist evening commuters.

Tyler Road at the railroad crossing was to be open for the commute and into the future as long as no additional significant rainfall occurs. The previously closed sections of Illinois Avenue between 7th and 13th avenues are open, as well as the adjacent streets. The Illinois Street/Avenue Bridge, however, remained closed as the most problematic spots in the city are right along the riverfront. Because of that, State Street from Route 31 to 3rd Street is also still closed with a significant pool of standing water in front of Carroll Towers. East Main Street had patches of water on the roadway, but remained open to traffic. The pedestrian bridge at Indiana Avenue is also unsafe to cross until further notice.

St. Charles officials have made sandbags available to anyone who needs them at the city's public works facility at 200 Devereaux Way. Members of the St. Charles East Baseball Team have been assisting city crews with filling sandbags.

Points south

In Batavia, Clark Island Park is closed due to flooding. And when the river breached its banks, the patio at Pal Joey's restaurant on North River Street was flooded.

But the interior of the restaurant was fine, according to co-owner John Hamel. "We're OK," he said midafternoon.

The North Aurora village hall was closed Thursday because of a sewage backed.

Campton Hills

The village appeared to dodge the worst of the deluge. Administrative assistant Mary Fredrick said the village did not have to close any streets due to flooding.

"At this point in time, everything's good," she said.

Greg Benson, chief of the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District, said the department did not have to help any residents evacuate from their homes.

"Conditions are changing and can change rapidly. We're constantly monitoring our known trouble spots," Benson said.

Sump pumps

If yours wore out Thursday, you were out of luck, as stores in Geneva and Batavia ran out of stock within 90 minutes of opening.

"It's insane," said saleswoman Janet Armstrong, at the Geneva Ace Hardware, late Thursday morning. The store also ran out of sump pump batteries and check valves. The store expected to receive a shipment of pumps Friday, she said.

Daily Herald staff writers James Fuller and Harry Hitzeman contributed to this story.

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