Underwater

(This entry is from last week, April 15th-20th.)

Currently, if you have not heard, or are not from the area, Illinois is experiencing some major flooding. It has been raining for almost a week now, and the Illinois River has not even crested, yet. Some towns are halfway underwater, and almost every single bridge across the Illinois River has been closed due to high waters. The damage is enormous, and many people are now displaced, or even worse, altogether homeless. For those who have flood insurance, things are still bad, but you can recover financially and physically. For those without flood insurance, this may be just what puts them over the edge into poverty.

At first, you heard about Chicago and the suburbs flooding. Entire expressways were shut down, as well, along with major roads and de-elevated underpasses. Chicago, being primarily covered in hard, non-permeable surfaces, is at much higher risk for immediate flooding from very intense storms. It can only drain as fast as its sewage system can handle, so the rate in which it drains water is far slower than in a natural area with open fields. The same things goes for the suburbs, but on a smaller scale. Suburbs usually have more options and availability for water runoff, have open soils that can absorb rain easily, and thus can handle quick, extreme storms more gracefully than the city. Unfortunately, the rain was so great this week, that both system were overloaded.

After retention ponds fill, the water tends to flow to the nearest creek or stream. The creeks will be the first waterway to react to this rain, filling with water above their normal heights, and flowing with such intensity and force, that once was a small creek, can now be deadly rapids. Houses around the creeks are vulnerable, as the creeks very rarely flood, if even at all, thus fooling people into a false sense of security. As the creeks and streams start to flow, they combine with other creeks. Eventually, they all converge into a river. The flooded areas around various creek begin to drain, as the river height increases, thus transferring the destruction to another area.  Unlike creeks, rivers take a little longer to react, due to their large size. Once they do, however, it takes far longer for them to drain, compared to a creek. Some rivers will converge into one main river, which takes even longer than the small rivers, but comes with such incredible force that once cannot help but to be in awe. Some rivers will crest ( the highest level they reach) days after the main downpour, as it takes some time for all the drainage to occur. Areas with large percentages of non-permeable surfaces (roads, parking lots, buildings) will experience the most dramatic flooding, as drainage is reduced severely.

The worst damage I witnessed was around the Illinois River. The flooding was so extreme, that some towns were halfway underwater. The water level was raised so much, that tugboats were in people’s backyard, and barges broke loose from their moorings, floating down river uncontrolled, and eventually crashing into the Marseilles lock & dam.

 


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The following images display graphical data about the Illinois Rivers’ height and flow during this flood:

 

Illinois River gage height april 2013

The blue line shows the Illinois River’s gage height at Marseilles, in cubic feet per second, for April 13th – April 20th, 2013. The yellow triangles represent the median daily gage height for the last 93 years. As you can see, they are very different. This April’s gage height puts the rest to shame. I have never seen the river this high, before.

Illinois River median discharge rate april 2013

The blue line shows the Illinois River’s discharge rate at Marseilles, in cubic feet per second, for April 13th- April 20th, 2013. The yellow triangles represent the median daily discharge for the last 93 years. Notice how much the blue line diverges from the median. I’m a much bigger fan of means, as opposed to medians, but with almost 100 samples, It may actually be around the same for each. Either way, after the dry Summer, Autumn, and Winter, you cannot deny that the weather is seriously messed up compared to usual.

Stream stage (also called stage or gage height) is the height of the water surface, in feet, above an established altitude where the stage is zero. The zero level is arbitrary, but is often close to the streambed. You can get an idea of what stream stage is by looking at this picture of a common staff gage, which is used to make a visual reading of stream stage.

Stream stage (also called stage or gage height) is the height of the water surface, in feet, above an established altitude where the stage is zero. The zero level is arbitrary, but is often close to the streambed. You can get an idea of what stream stage is by looking at this picture of a common staff gage, which is used to make a visual reading of stream stage.

 

The following link shows a video of the chaos, and the barges hung up on the Marseilles lock: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evVoUcJ8wOs.

This video gives a very shocking display of nature’s power, and a aerial perspective that really captures the damage that has occurred. Requiring a tugboat to be moved, the barges lack an engine, carry a large amount of materials, and are at the whim of whatever force moves them. It was reported that 7 barges had broke loose, with 4 of them sinking. Coal, corn, and caustic soda were amongst the raw materials carried by the barges.

The following photos are from various towns along the Illinois River, depicting some serious flooding:

 

Taken from inside the truck. Deep flood waters engulf a road along the Illinois River.

Taken from inside the truck. Deep flood waters engulf a road along the Illinois River.

illinois river flood seneca april 2013

Deep flood waters engulf a road along the Illinois River. Just south of Seneca, IL.

illinois river flood seneca april 2013

Just south of Seneca, the Illinois River has rose to levels that force the closure of Dupont road.

illinois river flood seneca april 2013

The day before this picture was taken, the mobile homes were still above water. Although they were fully jacked, the water had only reached the bottom of their tires. One day later, the water is now past the floor of each home.

illinois river flood seneca april 2013

illinois river flood seneca april 2013

The main office of the Anchor In Marina. As you can see, the flooding has risen several feet above the floor of the building.

illinois river flood seneca april 2013

The bar at the Anchor In Marina, already raised several feet above ground level, is overcome with water.

illinois river flood seneca april 2013

The bar at the Anchor In Marina, already raised several feet above ground level, is overcome with water.

 

 

vermillion river flood peru april 2013

A load of debris caught up on a bridge over the Vermillion River, due to extreme water height. Peru, IL.

vermillion river flood peru april 2013

Another shot of the flooding along the Vermillion River.

 

illinois river flood utica april 2013

A house that has fallen victim to the Illinois River flooding, Utica, IL. Luckily, this was only the garage/man cave, the real house was fine.

illinois river flood utica april 2013

illinois river flood utica april 2013

Utica, IL, flooded by the Illinois River. April 2013.

Utica, IL, flooded by the Illinois River. April 2013.

Utica, IL, flooded by the Illinois River. April 2013.

illinois river flood utica april 2013

Utica, IL, flooded by the Illinois River. April 2013.

illinois river flood utica april 2013

A telling view of the flooding.

illinois river flood utica april 2013

Severe flooding in Utica, IL, has put half of the town underwater.

illinois river flood utica april 2013

A shot of the flooding in Utica, IL.

 

illinois river fox river flood ottawa april 2013

The route 6 bridge over the Fox River, in Ottawa, IL. The water is just a few feet from the top of the bridge, which is very close compared to usual.

illinois river fox river flood ottawa april 2013

The railroad bridge across the Fox River. The water was so high, that it is above the bottom of the bridge, creating a deadly swirling vortex that can suck objects into the flooded abyss.

illinois river fox river flood ottawa april 2013

Another shot of the Fox River flooding.

illinois river fox river flood ottawa april 2013

An RV park right off the Fox River is submerged in floodwaters.

 

illinois river flood morris april 2013

A grain facility off of the Illinois River, in Morris, IL.

illinois river flood morris april 2013

A apartment complex parking lot in Morris, IL. Notice the PORSCHE halfway submerged. You would think that they would hav moved their cars…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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