Flood Disasters Declared in 8 of Diocese’s 11 Counties
By Sharon Boehlefeld, Features Editor
July 27, 2017

DIOCESE— Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson and Whiteside counties joined McHenry and Kane counties on Illinois’ list of flood disaster areas on Monday.

Most diocesan churches, as far as The Observer has been able to learn as of press time Tuesday, have been spared from damage.

Algonquin was among the first cities to declare a flood emergency on July 13.

The Fox River, which rose through parts of McHenry County, including Algonquin, and much of Kane County led to a July 14 flood disaster declaration from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Be prepared

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has disaster preparedness information at  http://www.ready.illinois.gov/.

How has your parish fared?
If your parish has suffered damage or helped others during the flooding, post information and photos at http://observer.rockforddiocese.org/observerform.php?page=eventsandnews

While only a block separates St. Margaret Mary Parish in Algonquin from the Fox River, the parish buildings and grounds are uphill from the river so they have been safe from recent flood waters, Linda Mary Settles, told The Observer.

“Each day as I cross over the bridge, I do peer out the car window and have seen the river rise,” said Settles, who is office manager at the parish.

She said several parishioners helped with sandbagging efforts at Algonqin’s public works building last week, including Mark Ostrowski and his daughters Anna and Claire (left).

Settles also shared a Facebook post from Mark Ostrow-ski’s wife Amy, who encouraged “McHenry County friends” to donate time to help villages and townships with “our manual labor” to fill sandbags.

“It would be one act of kindness that will be much appreciated,” Amy Ostrowski wrote on the social media site.

Settles added, “Thank you Amy for getting the word out and a tremendous showing of giving to our community.”

The Fox River reached a new record at 13.15 feet — 3.65 feet above flood stage at the Algonquin Tailwater, according to kanecountyconnects.com. As of 7:30 a.m. July 25, the Fox remained at 12.8 feet.

The western counties were added to the state list July 24 after continued heavy rain last week. In those counties, the Rock and Pecatonica rivers were expected to swell to record and near-record levels this week.

In Galena, near the Mississippi, flood gates were closed and the town was not damaged.

Galena, in far western Jo Daviess County, is home to the oldest parish in the diocese, St. Michael, which dates to 1832, and to St. Mary Parish, founded in 1850.

In Freeport, water filled shopping center parking lots on either side of South Street (Illinois Rt. 26)  and made the road impassable for a while.

St. Thomas Aquinas Parish on the city’s southwest side near Highland Community College was not damaged by the water.

In the older part of town, St. Joseph Parish had some water in the basement and quite a bit in the school. But all of the damage is “cleanable,” according to Nancy Lehman, parish secretary.

The parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society is helping whomever calls and the parish continues to help fund and collect food for the Freeport Area Church Cooperative, which helps people with housing.

St. Thomas Aquinas is also helping support service agencies in Freeport.

St. Patrick Parish in Rochelle, was flooded at its new church on the first Easter it was open, saw high waters surround the church again.

“It got right up to the sidewalk but didn’t get into the church, praise God!” said Sharon Duncan, business manager. “We cancelled the 5 p.m. vigil Mass (July 22) and the 7:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday (July 23). By then, the water had receded so people could again use the parking lot.”

Flood outlook

“IEMA has been in continual contact with emergency managers in the flood-impacted counties to ensure they get any state resources needed as quickly as possible,” said James K. Joseph, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, in a press release.

“Thanks to strong emergency response capabilities and solid planning in this area, there have been few requests for state resources to this point. We will continue to lean forward in support of these communities as long as needed.”

Everyone should be prepared for more flooding to occur in the area. IEMA recommends being mindful of residual floodwaters during the cleanup process.

With water still high in many places, it is critical that people do not attempt to drive on flooded roads; turn around, don’t drown.

Info: http://www.ready.illinois.gov/.

— Amanda Hudson, news editor, contributed to this story