Des Plaines officials are urging residents to stay off the Des Plaines River, even though water levels reported by the National Weather Service dropped to flood stage 7.13 feet by Thursday afternoon.
The river crested at a record 10.92 feet Friday, April 19, and has been steadily receding despite additional rainfall Tuesday.
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For days after flooding began Wednesday, many residents in the hardest hit areas of Big Bend Drive, Hawthorne Lane and Berry Lane were using boats to navigate flooded streets and help neighbors. Too many, in fact, for city officials to recognize their efforts individually, said Fire Chief Alan Wax.
"Neighbors in neighborhoods really came together and just kind of showed the true spirit of Des Plaines," Wax said. "Even during the roughest times, people are willing to help each other out."
One such resident was helping people in the city's 2nd Ward get out of their homes surrounded by water last Friday.
That Good Samaritan later needed rescuing himself when the kayak he was paddling along Campground Road near the river capsized, Wax added. It was the only river rescue since flooding began.
Firefighters, however, rescued several people from cars stuck in floodwater and about 60 residents from their homes.
"We do encourage people to help out, if they can, without entering the river," Wax said. "We don't encourage people to attempt rescues without the proper equipment or training. We don't suggest people go in the river because then, often we would just end up having two victims that we would need to rescue. The river is so high, it is moving much faster than it usually does."
With floodwaters receding, Wax said there are now no neighborhoods in Des Plaines where residents need boats to access their homes.
Meanwhile, firefighters are cleaning the city's main Fire Station No. 1 at 405 S. River Road, which was flooded and evacuated early last Thursday.
Crews from that station have been operating out of Holy Family Medical Center. They are expected to move back into the station within a day or two, Wax said.
"We should be all totally decontaminated, totally rehabilitated and up and running," he said.
Officials had closed the emergency shelter set up at Prairie Lakes Community Center, 515 E. Thacker St., a couple of days ago because there weren't any displaced residents taking advantage of it. However, since the emergency shelter at Wheeling's Community Recreation Center filled up Wednesday, the Prairie Lakes shelter has been reopened.
Officials are anticipating about 300 Red Cross flood cleanup kits were expected to be available later Thursday. The Salvation Army already has distributed all of its cleanup kits, Wax said.
Building inspectors continue to work on flood damage assessment of homes and businesses, while city crews are hauling away debris from neighborhoods and trash receptacles placed in flooded areas, said Tim Oakley, director of public works and engineering.
Des Plaines police are warning homeowners in flood-affected areas to be wary of people posing as insurance adjusters who may walk around examining properties, taking photos, measurements, and then asking homeowners for a deductible payment to "expedite the processing."
Legitimate insurance company adjusters should have proper identification, and would not ask for, nor accept, a homeowners' deductible, police said. Suspicious persons should be reported to 9-1-1.
All Des Plaines roads shut down due to standing floodwater are now open to traffic, except Golf Road between River Road and East River Road.
Meanwhile, Oakton Community College's Des Plaines campus, which has been closed since last Thursday due to severe flooding, is expected to reopen at 7 a.m. Friday, but only for employees and students scheduled to be on campus.
The college's Performing Arts schedule has been disrupted. For performances originally scheduled for late last week and this week, the new dates are:
•Cat on A Hot Tin Roof: 8 p.m. Thursday, May 2 and Friday, May 3; 2 p.m. Saturday, May 4.
•Six Piano Ensemble: 8 p.m. Saturday, May 4; 3 p.m. Sunday, May 5.
The Noteworthy Festival Guitar Ensemble performance, originally scheduled for Sunday, May 5, has been canceled. The concert will be part of the Festival's String Ensemble at 8 p.m. Monday, May 6.
Patrons who already purchased tickets for canceled shows will have priority access to rescheduled shows. Remaining seats are available to the general public by calling (847) 635-1897.