PRINCETON — Even before the rains had stopped on Thursday, Gov. Pat Quinn declared 38 counties, including Bureau, as state disaster areas.
“Illinois has seen an incredible level of devastation and reports indicate that conditions will get worse in the coming days,” Quinn said. “We want to ensure that every county gets the assistance they need and this declaration will give every affected community access to available resources.”
The Princeton Water Treatment Plant recorded 2.10 inches of rain received on Wednesday and 3.87 inches of rain on Thursday. The heavy rainfall resulted in flooded basements, flooded streets and roads, flooded yards and flooded fields throughout Princeton, Bureau County and neighboring counties.
On Thursday morning, Princeton City Manager Jeff Clawson said the streets of North Euclid Avenue, North Church Street, North Chestnut Street and Dover Road had areas with 3 to 4 feet of water standing on them. In addition, there were “a ton of houses” with water in the basement and he had gotten at least 50 calls from residents, the city manager said.
When contacted Friday morning, Clawson said all the city streets are clear of water and are passable, but there may still be some debris left on some streets. The debris should be cleared from the streets by the end of the day, Friday. People are encouraged to use caution when driving in those areas, he said.
To help residents get rid of debris from their basements, the city is working out the details to start spring cleaning early this year, Clawson said. Some residents have already started putting ruined items along the curb for pick-up, he said.
As to the extent of the problem of flooded basements, Clawson said that’s a hard number to determine. The city received calls from more than 100 residents who wanted assistance from the city to shut off their natural gas or electricity because of water in their basements. But there were no doubt many more residents who had water in their basements but at more manageable levels, the city manager said.
When contacted Thursday morning, Princeton Mayor Keith Cain said the city’s waste water system did not fail in the storm, but the system just could not keep up with the amount of rain received. The city couldn’t build a system big enough to keep up with that kind of storm. Even the rain from a few years ago during Homestead Festival weekend wasn’t this heavy, he said.
On Friday, Cain again stated the city’s waste water system worked, but no system would be able to keep up with the amount of rain received in such a short period of time. The system was keeping up with the rain until 3 inches were received in one hour. This week’s storm was one for the record books, he said.
“This is the kind of storm you get maybe every 150 years,” Cain said. “I sympathize with the people who had water in their basements. I helped pump out some basements. It’s devastating, I understand that. But we will all get through this. No lives were lost, no lives were hurt. That’s the most important thing for us to remember.”
This week’s flooding was not isolated to Princeton or even Bureau County, but was widespread through Illinois and even neighboring states, Cain said.
When asked Thursday if there were certain areas of the county which were especially hit hard, Bureau County Highway Engineer John Gross said there were too many areas to list. The flooding was widespread, and the water was still rising.
The highway department had put out every caution sign it had to warn motorists of water on the road, Gross said. There was so much water out there that it was too soon to tell the extent of damage to the roads, he said.
On Friday, Gross said the county roads were all opened, but the shoulders of the roads were very soft and drivers should make sure they stay on the road and away from the shoulders.
As far as damage to the county roads, Gross said the roads aren’t in too bad of shape, but there are some isolated shoulder washouts. It’s too early to determine if there was any damage to county bridges. County crews will work for at least a week to clean up the debris from this week’s flooding, he said.
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Health Department addresses health safety issues after flooding
PRINCETON — The Bureau/Putnam County Health Department has issued a health alert for residents as they clean up their basements from debris caused by this week’s heavy rains and flooding. On Thursday, Kurt Kuchle, director of health protection for the Bureau/Putnam Health Department, said flooded basements are widespread and health risks include potential sewage infiltration and mold development from the moisture. The local health department’s advice is to dry out items and areas as quickly as possible and clean them with soap and water then a bleach solution, Kuchle said. Porous materials might require replacement, he said. When cleaning up after the storm, the health department recommends people use personal protective equipment such as gloves and boots, Kuchle said. Also, they should wash their hands properly using disinfecting soap and limiting direct contact with contaminated water, he said. In addition, many area municipalities with storm water infiltration problems will be pumping low lying sewer lines out into the street, Kuchle said. The health department strongly recommends that children do not play in flooded streets due to the possibility of injury, storm drain entrapment, and also the contamination risks. “This contamination will remain in streams and rivers for at least a week,” Kuchle said. “If the kids want to play in the water, backyard puddles should be low risk.” Restaurants experiencing any sewage backup are required to close until the problem has subsided, with the same cleaning procedure as for flooded basements, Kuchle said.