Algonquin homeowner on flood: 'After a while, you just know what to do'
For the past week, Curt Wittrock has watched floodwater gradually creep past the riverbank and inch closer to his Algonquin house along the Fox River.
By Monday, his entire backyard was underwater, as were many of his neighbors' properties on Oceola Drive. But Wittrock, who moved in just last year, had time to prepare for the worst.
He lined his house with walls of sandbags, relocated important appliances to a safe space, and has been monitoring his basement frequently. So far, his house has remained dry.
"We're pretty lucky," he said.
The Fox River in Algonquin had reached more than 12.3 feet -- about 2.8 feet above the flood stage -- by Monday evening, according to the National Weather Service. Though initial predictions called for the water to rise another several inches by Tuesday, forecasters are now expecting the river to crest at 12.4 feet overnight.
For Barb Lindahl, who has lived on Oceola Drive since 1966, the flooding is the worst she's ever seen it. When she returned home from vacation Sunday, her house was surrounded by water on three sides, and she had several inches of water in her basement.
But she and her neighbors have been through similar situations in the past, including a flood with record water levels in 2013, she said.
"We've lived here a long time. We've gone through a lot of floods, and after a while, you just know what to do," Lindahl said. "You just get used to it, and you do what you can for your neighbors or anybody else that needs your help."
What makes this flood different from those in years past is the amount of time it took for the river to reach a major flood stage, Village President John Schmitt said.
After last week's storms, officials at the municipal, county and state level jumped into action, and hundreds of volunteers gathered to fill sandbags and deliver them to affected areas.
"I think this time around, we were very fortunate that it rose slowly and didn't catch anybody by surprise," Schmitt said.
However, authorities won't know the extent of the damage until the river begins receding in a few days, he said.
During a Sunday news conference in Algonquin, Gov. Bruce Rauner warned the water levels are expected to remain high for several days. He declared Lake, McHenry and Kane counties state disaster areas last week, and he has since added Cook County to the list.
Assistant Village Manager Mike Kumbera said Algonquin's emergency operations team is preparing to transition to recovery efforts later this week. Towne Park, Cornish Park and sections of Riverfront Park remain closed, and Thursday's Algonquin Summer Concerts event has been canceled.
Downstream in Carpentersville, Otto Engineering President Tom Roeser says his riverside properties are expected to stay dry. West Dundee's riverwalk and some nearby streets remain closed due to standing water.
In East Dundee, some homeowners have reported seepage in their basements, and several businesses along Water Street have started taking on water, Village Administrator Jennifer Johnsen said, but that's nothing out of the ordinary with river levels this high.
"There hasn't been any major incidents, and we've had only very minimal calls for service," she said. "So everything seems to be intact."
With the Chain O' Lakes crested in Fox Lake at about 3.5 feet over normal summer water levels Monday, people were in a holding pattern waiting for the water to recede.
The parking lot at Fox Lake Town Center remains flooded, people are getting into and out of Kings Island and Knollwood Park subdivisions in row boats, and houses at the end of streets near the water off Grand Avenue remain surrounded by floodwater.
Sandbags are still being filled at the streets department off Washington Street, and officials said they have been keeping tabs on the situation throughout the day.
Meanwhile, cleanup efforts have begun along the Des Plaines River, which crested at 12.09 feet just after midnight Sunday. That is the highest the river has ever been recorded since the gauge was installed at Route 120 in 1976.
Volunteers with the American Red Cross on Monday were passing out kits containing bleach, mops and trash bags to the people living near the floodwaters near Warren Township High School.
Because the floodwaters prevented them passing, Dennis and Janet Grear of the Red Cross dropped off a load of supplies at Jim Oborny's house across from the high school on O'Plaine Road. With many residents still stuck in their houses, Oborny said he would put on his waders and tell his neighbors where to find the supplies.
In Des Plaines, Oakton Community College's campus on Golf Road is expected to remain closed Tuesday for classes and activities. The parking lots are continuing to dry, college officials said, and roads surrounding the campus are still shut down due to flooding.
• Daily Herald staff writers Lee Filas and Doug Graham contributed to this report.