Water levels still rising on Fox River, Chain O' Lakes

Levels expected to crest at 11.5 feet by Wednesday; dry weather should help

McHENRY – Ray Wilkinson said the recent flooding is the worst he’s seen at his Spring Grove home near Nippersink Creek in at least the past 20 years.

It started right after the rains last Thursday.

“It just kind of came unexpected this time,” he said. “Usually, we get overflow with heavy rains. This time it rose real quick.”

Although sandbagging helped him keep up with the water in the basement, Wilkinson said he’s probably lost the yard “for the rest of the year.” The water in the yard won’t go down until the creek goes down, so it will take him at least a week to get things in order.

“It’ll be so soft and muddy,” he said. “It’s a large yard. We usually go out there and sit ... I have a grandchild who goes over there to play in it. He’s not going to be able to do that for a while.”

An expected stretch of dry weather this week should bring some relief for Wilkinson, as well as those with property along the Fox River, which officials expect to crest this week.

The river continued to be under a flood warning by the National Weather Service as of Monday, with the water level measured at 11.2 feet for the area of Fox River at Algonquin Lock and Dam tailwater. The system is closed to boating from the Chain O’ Lakes south to the Algonquin Dam.

The river is expected to crest at 11.5 feet by Wednesday morning before it begins to recede, according to the weather service.

Scott Lincoln, senior hydrologist with the weather service, said on Monday morning that it still is a little early to say when the flood warning might be canceled. Lincoln said he does expect it to be mostly dry for the next three days, with the next chance of rain being next week, although the forecast could change.

“Storms tend to be really isolated in the summer,” he said.

The lower river extends north from the Algonquin dam in Algonquin north to the William G. Stratton-Thomas A. Bolger Lock and Dam near McHenry. The upper river extends north from the lock and dam to Pistakee Lake.

Joe Keller, executive director of the Fox River Waterway Agency, said the system is going through the beginning of a crest, meaning water levels are topping off.

“Hopefully this is the highest it gets,” Keller said.

The Chain O’Lakes were closed to boats at 3 p.m. The chain extends from the mouth of the Fox River at Pistakee Lake north to the Wisconsin state line, and includes 15 interconnected lakes.

Keller said the agency wants to prevent property damage that could be caused by wave action. In addition, when the water gets over piers, it can be dangerous for boaters, Keller said.

“Many folks have water creeping up on their yards, or very close to their house,” he said.

The elevated water levels also can pull items off the shore and into the water, spreading floating debris throughout the system, so there is a debris advisory in effect. Boats that were not properly secured might also be adrift, Keller said.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources sent out an update Monday afternoon that said the Fox River watershed received little or no precipitation within the past day. The Fox Lake stage is 6.7 feet and the Stratton Dam Tailwater stage is 6.26 feet. The Fox River at Algonquin Tailwater is expected to crest at 11.5 feet on Wednesday.

All sluice gates and the hinged crest gate at Stratton Dam are completely open. Also open is the hinged crest gate at Algonquin Dam, allowing maximum water flow.

Fox Lake may crest near 6 feet, 8 inches and Stratton Dam tailwater might crest near 6 feet, 4 inches Tuesday, according to the IDNR’s estimates.

Bob Ellsworth, chief deputy for the McHenry County Emergency Management Agency, said they reached out to all the municipalities and the township, and acted as a resource for anything they might need during the flooding.

It isn’t just along the river that people may see flooding, Ellsworth said. Recent heavy rains have left areas with standing water in low-lying areas.

McHenry Township made sandbagging supplies available over the weekend and will continue having them throughout the week at Nippersink Drive and Ray Street, as well as Hilltop Drive and Circle Drive. Sandbags also are at the road district yard at 3703 N. Richmond Road in Johnsburg.

Adam Zick, operations manager for McHenry Township, said these will be made available to the public until the water subsides. He estimated that about 3,000 sandbags have been given out so far.

“That’s prefilled sandbags, not even including the thousands we’ve put out around for residents to fill up on their own,” Zick said.

Still, Zick said this is on the “lower end” of the amount of bags given out for this much flooding.

“I think this one snuck up on everyone,” he said.

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