CHICAGO (CBS) — Skies have cleared across the Chicago area after multiple rounds of heavy rain since Tuesday night, but that doesn’t mean flooding concerns are gone.
Many areas in the northern suburbs remained flooded Thursday morning, and rivers were still rising, leaving businesses and homeowners on alert. The National Weather Service has issued multiple flood warnings along the Des Plaines and Fox rivers, as well as flood advisories for parts of the North Branch of the Chicago River.
Voluntary evacuations were underway Thursday morning in Lincolnshire, while flooding could hit record levels in Gurnee.
The flooding in Gurnee has shut down one of the village’s firehouses, and damaged more than 100 homes and businesses.
Sandbags were a hot commodity in Gurnee on Thursday, and volunteers have been working through the night to keep flooding away from buildings wherever possible.
Hundreds of volunteers worked to form sandbag brigades on Wednesday to protect homes and businesses from the water. Some volunteers worked as long as seven hours Wednesday night to set up sandbags, while others helped pump water out of flooded buildings.
“It’s a pain in the butt, but we’ve learned how to manage it, so we deal with it. The nature of the beast. We don’t plan on moving, so we’ve just learned how to deal with it,” Gary Elsbury said.
The Des Plaines River was at 10.85 feet near Gurnee as of 6:30 a.m., nearly four feet past flood stage, and expected to a crest of 12 feet by Saturday morning, topping the record level set in 1986, when it reached 11.9 feet.
The widespread flooding has trapped some fish on streets that have been inundated with water.
Flooding also caused a massive sinkhole in Gurnee, on Gages Lake Road just east of Leonard Drive. Barriers have been set up to block the road to traffic.
In Lake Bluff, a semi-tractor trailer has been submerged in floodwaters on Route 41 since Wednesday, the water coming all the way up to the windshield of the truck cab. Police said the water is four feet deep in some areas, forcing many drivers to leave their stalled cars behind.
Clinical operations remained suspended Thursday morning at Lake Forest Hospital, where flooding and power outages led the hospital to transfer 70 patients to other medical facilities on Wednesday.
Meantime, the Des Plaines River was at 16.5 feet near Lincolnshire as of 5:45 a.m., four feet above flood stage. Officials said they do not expect the river to crest until Saturday, when it could reach 17.5 feet high.
Many residents were dealing with flooded basements and homes as a result.
Firefighters in Lincolnshire have been using rafts to check homes for people possibly stranded by the flooding. Firefighters said water in some areas is up to 5 feet deep.
A few dozen homes in Lincolnshire have been left underwater. Officials have suggested people in flooded homes leave for now, but most people have stayed.
Scott Zilligen said he’s lucky he doesn’t have a basement, but he had water damage to his garage and the front of his house, and was worried the rising river could eventually flood his home.
“I really wasn’t too concerned about it, because of the basement, but now actually seeing this, and knowing that it’s still going to rise, I’m really worried that it’s going to exceed our foundation,” he said. “So I might have to go out, try to at least maybe walk somewhere, and go get some stuff … sandbags and stuff, if I can find some, but I’m going to try to reach out to my neighbors, too, and see if they need any help.”
Two women who were riding their bikes through the standing water in Lincolnshire on Thursday said, at one point, it was at least two feet deep. They said they intentionally did not buy homes close to the river.
“When you live next to the Des Plaines River, and they say you can’t have basements because of floods, and this happens every three years, why do you have a house here?” Kathleen Hamilton said.
The Fox River also was well beyond flood stage, measuring at 10.27 feet near Algonquin, and expected to reach 13.5 feet – or four feet above flood stage – by the weekend.
The American Red Cross has been providing assistance to hundreds of people affected by severe flooding and power outages in northern Illinois; including Cook, Lake, and McHenry counties. Three shelters have been opened — at Magee Middle School in Round Lake, Foss Park Golf Course in North Chicago, and The Chapel nondenominational church in Grayslake.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has solicited the National Guard to help with flooding in the southeastern part of the state, and people who live along the Fox River have been asked to evacuate their homes.
Gushing water filled the basement of a home to the ceiling in Burlington, Wisconsin, after the weight of the water-saturated yard burst through low-level windows.
“If I had been downstairs when that window busted, God only knows what would have happened to me. I would have been swept — hit my head or I would have been electrocuted,” Tony Hernandez said. “I would say it took about three minutes. Maybe less. That’s how fast that water was.”
All four bridges crossing the Fox River in Burlington have been closed due to flooding.