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Fox River, Chain O' Lakes continue to rise
By Lee Filas | Daily Herald Staff

Village of Fox Lake street department workers Matt Vasey, left, and Dan Kattner fill sandbags Monday at their facility for residents effected by the flooding.


Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

Sections of the Fox Lake Town Center at Grand Ave. and Rollins Road in Fox Lake are under water Monday due to rising floodwaters.


Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

A van is submerged in water Sunday in the Fox River Springs subdivision in Antioch Township.


George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

A garage sits in floodwater in Antioch Township.


George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

The parking lot of Verne Gowe Memorial Park in Gurnee is filled with water from the Des Plaines River. Nearby Gowe Beach Park was closed last week due to flooding.


George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

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Published: 6/16/2008 12:11 AM | Updated: 6/16/2008 2:21 PM

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Emergency officials in three counties are keeping a close eye on Fox River and Chain O' Lakes as rising water inches closer to homes.

The Chain and Fox River from the Algonquin Dam north are closed due to dangerous boating conditions and floating debris, the Fox Waterway Agency announced today.

Crews also are working to remove a 10-acre bog blocking the channel between Grass Lake and Lake Marie.

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Officials said two bogs -- each about 4 to 5 acres -- broke off in Jackson Bay on Grass Lake near Chain O' Lakes State Park and merged.

The floating land mass drifted across Grass Lake and got stuck at the mouth of a channel connecting the lakes.

"This is the largest floating bog I've ever seen," said Ron Barker, director of operations for the FWA in Fox Lake. "This happens now and then, but never 10 acres like this."

If the bog isn't dislodged, Barker said, it will block water flowing into Lake Marie, which could worsen flooding on the Chain.

He said Lake Marie isn't in the main path of current of the Fox River flowing from Wisconsin through the Chain, then into the river in Johnsburg. However, Lake Marie is a lake reservoir and stores high water during flooding.

Without that reservoir, he said, Chain water levels would rise higher and faster than they are now.

Barker said crews are working to dislodge the land mass and move it back to where it belongs.

Chain O' Lakes:

Water levels on the Chain rose another half-inch overnight Sunday, making this the worst flood since 1987. Officials said the Chain could rise another 2 inches into Wednesday before cresting.

"We're just trying to stay on top of it," said Ed Lescher, the Fox Lake emergency services director, who added volunteers and village officials are mobilized to make more sandbags today.

Lake County Emergency Management Director Kent McKenzie said the Fox River in New Munster, Wis., crested at about 5 feet, 2 inches over flood levels Sunday before receding this morning.

The Chain is at 2 feet over flood stage, and 18 inches over the level where property is damaged. In all, there are about 125 homes with some flood damage in Antioch, Antioch Township, Grant Township and Fox Lake. About 500 homeowners in that area have standing water on their property.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared Lake County a disaster area Saturday, opening the door for state and federal resources to help homeowners.

In all, 15 Illinois counties received the disaster area designation. It entitles officials and residents to state assistance such as work crews, trucks and equipment, to speed debris removal.

Fox River south of McHenry:

In McHenry County, long-time Algonquin riverfront resident Roger Baumgartner said he and neighbors are keeping a weary watch on the Fox River as it threatens to turn his home -- one lot from the river -- into riverfront property.

At least three nearby homes are in jeopardy of taking on water, but he and neighbors did some sandbagging and are ready to do more as the river rises.

"We're keeping an eye on it," Baumgartner said with the resignation fairly typical of river-front dwellers used to dealing with possible flooding.

Barry Valentine, director of the McHenry County Emergency Management Agency, said emergency workers have been surprised not to get more calls for help as the Fox and Chain water levels continue to rise.

"Some of it might be people are tired of sandbagging," he added. "They're tired of fighting it."

They may also have sandbags in place from the early spring flooding or know that, unlike what's happening in Iowa, flooding here is a much slower process, he said.

Algonquin Township Road Commissioner Bob Miller said road crews have delivered sand and bags to some areas, but little has been used.

"We've been lucky so far," Miller said.

Flooded areas include Orchard Heights subdivision just south of the McHenry dam, Holiday Hills, Lake Griswald, parts of Cary in Lake County, Burton's Bridge and in Algonquin along the Fox River.

Sandbagging has kept most homes secure, but the high water affects septic fields and wells, damages garages and sheds and causes mold and mildew.

"We don't do flash floods here," Valentine said. "People will see this coming and it gradually goes up."

Valentine credited local townships and municipalities with aiding the sandbag efforts.

It has helped greatly, Baumgartner said. He added the village of Algonquin brought four skids of sandbags to his neighborhood last weekend.

Don Bryant, head of the Kane County Emergency Management Agency, said the Fox River is about two and a half feet over flood stage in the Dundee area, and sandbagging is ongoing to try and stave off flood waters.

"There is about 30 properties where homes are either being damaged or has water in their yards right now," he said.

He said the river in Kane County is going to rise slowly until it crests Friday, and levels already equal heights recorded last August.

"People living along the river need to be aware of the river," he said. "That means people should be proactive and move things to keep things out of the flood waters, or, if necessary, to evacuate their homes."

Daily Herald Staff Writer Amy Mack contributed to this report.