Homeowners flee Rock River flash flood; emergency declared


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Posted Online: March 06, 2008, 10:16 pm
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Staff writers

An ice jam caused a record-breaking flash flood on the Rock River in Moline overnight. Residents of North Shore and South Shore drive were evacuated, and some had to be rescued by boat.

A state of emergency in Rock Island County was declared, effective at 10:30 a.m. today by county board chairman James Bohnsack.

Moline Fire Chief Rick Jewel said early this afternoon his department had evacuated 35 homes on North Shore Drive since last night. He said one or two more evacuations still may be needed.

No serious injuries were reported. A Moline firefighter sprained a knee while he was fighting a garage fire in the flood area. Officials said at least one person was treated for hypothermia.

Rock Island Fire Chief Doug Vroman said officials aren’t sure where the main ice jam is yet, and that there likely are multiple jams causing the flooding. He said water levels are significantly higher at the power dam at 11th Street in Rock Island, and above. The National Weather Service said the ice jam was located near Vandruff's Island. (Map)

A Hampton rescue boat was still in operation at 8:15 this morning, bringing a woman in from South Shore drive. It was believed that most residents of South Shore had been evacuated, but at least one resident of North Shore Drive was left.

Coal Valley was handling emergencies on South Shore Drive, where another 20-25 homes were evacuated. Officials said pets also were taken out.

Emergency workers from the Arsenal, Rock Island, East Moline, Hampton and Colona also were on the scene.

Although authorities cannot force anyone to evacuate, the emergency declaration gives them the power to restrict people from returning to their homes in the flooded area prematurely, Mr. Bohnsack said.

“We’re just wasting our manpower if we have to go back in,” said Chief Jewel.

Authorities said there are plans in place to rescue pets that people had to leave behind. People living along the river were warned that conditions can change rapidly, and were urged to have an evacuation plan, including a bag for their medications and a place for their pets.

A flood crest is expected sometime this afternoon, then river levels are forecast to drop slowly.

Authorities said ice jams had formed at the new Veterans Bridge (West Rock River bridge), and the railroad bridge near Milan. The jam at the West Rock River Bridge broked up this afternoon, officials said at a late afternoon press conference.

The Rock downstream from the bridge was rising rapidly, officials said.

Dave DeClercq of Moline said he is a veteran of more than 20 years of living on the river and he said he has never seen the river rise to this level.

'Boom, it just came up,' Mr. DeClercq said describing the river's rapid rise.

He was rescued early this morning by Moline firefighters. Temporary shelter was set up in Wharton Field House in Moline.

According to several reports, the water may have started to rise about 10 p.m., and that authorities were alerted when responding to an emergency call of a man having a heart attack.

Emergency workers were staging south of SouthPark Mall in Moline.

Flood stage for the Rock River in Moline is 12 feet. The flood apparently set a record for Moline at 16.33 feet this morning. The old record was 16.15 feet. The level at noon stood at 16.13 feet.

The National Weather Service said the ice jam was located near Vandruff Island. The NWS said the ice jams could cause the river levels to fluctuate 1-3 feet this morning.

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the Rock rose in Moline by 1.74 feet in the last 24 hours. It began rising rapidly after 11 p.m., increasing a foot in just an hour to 15.6 feet. By 1 a.m. it hit 16.2 feet. (See graph)

In Joslin the Rock hit 17.19 at noon and was forecast to rise to 18 feet. Flood stage in Joslin is 12 feet.

Angela Senter, said her mother and stepdad, Martha and Garry Norin, live on North Shore Drive and were stuck in their house because their front door was frozen shut.

She said they couldn't have heat or power on because of the water, but did have an upper level to go to. ``They've lived here forever and I've never seen it like this,'' Ms. Senter said.

Her mother got wet and was taken by ambulance to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia.

Ms. Norin's brother, Charles Lowery, has lived on North Shore Drive 35 years, and said it's the worst he's ever seen it.

He got off the fire truck carrying a pair of jeans and wearing slippers. ``I got a ton of clothes at home, but I'm not at home,'' he said.

Colona rescue workers took a boat in to pick up John Vize on River Road in East Moline about 11 this morning. Mr. Vize, the original captain of the Channel Cat water tax, and an experienced river pilot, was injured after falling when the ice broke under him. The ambulance was unable to get to this flooded home.

Corps info on the Rock at Moline

Corps info on the Rock at Joslin

Current and predicted river levels

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