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Ice Jams Close Bridge On Kankakee River, Threaten Homes

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(CBS) – While the threat of flooding has eased in much of the Chicago area, there’s still concern about the Kankakee River, because of ice jams in the water.

WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports ice jams form on the Kankakee River every winter, but Will County Emergency Management Director Harold Damron said the severe weather this winter has created the worst conditions he’s seen on the river in 30 years.

In the city of Wilmington, some huge chunks of ice sit in the water just outside many people’s homes. Officials said a sudden shift in water levels could force some of that ice onto shore. Homes there are in danger from the ice jams.

Residents along the river like Joe Petrovic are preparing for the worst. He’s moved everything he can out of the house, and now he waits.

“It’s never happened to me, but fingers are crossed it doesn’t this time, either,” Petrovic tells CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley.

Owner Doug Kelty says homes are in danger of being “sheared” from their foundations if the ice is pushed onto land.

Also Monday morning, Warner Bridge Road near Kankakee River State Park was closed after ice jams piled up along the side of the bridge, possibly causing structural damage.

Damron has been keeping a close eye on two major ice jams.

“One is near the Will County-Grundy County line, and another one at the Will County-Kankakee County line,” he said. “In both instances, these jams are fairly large-sized.”

Ice jams can cause flooding because they block the flow of water in a river, and when runoff from melting snow or from heavy rain flows into the waterway, it can swell past its banks.

The ice jams on the Kankakee River have not caused any major flooding so far, but Damron said that could change quickly.

“They can cause water levels to rise and fall, literally within a matter of minutes sometimes,” he said.

Some homeowners along the river have packed up and moved to higher ground, just in case.

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