Chicago Suburbs Fight Flooding Threat

The Associated Press
Saturday, August 25, 2007; 12:35 AM

PROSPECT HEIGHTS, Ill. -- More rain pushed flood waters higher in northern Illinois on Friday, threatening further havoc in a region where days of torrential thunderstorms have swamped thousands of homes and left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity.

In this Chicago suburb, about 300 people piled sandbags against 4-foot-high concrete barriers, aided by backhoes and bulldozers, but they didn't know whether it would be enough to hold back the rising Des Plaines River.

"It's just getting worse," Fire Chief Don Gould said. "All these people will be flooded out if we don't move quick."

A storm carrying heavy rain and high winds Thursday knocked down thousands of trees and tree limbs around metropolitan Chicago and left more than half a million utility customers without power. About 148,000 remained without electricity Friday night, said ComEd spokeswoman Anne Prammaggiore.

In Dyer, Ind., southeast of Chicago, authorities began evacuating St. Margaret Mercy Hospital as water from a creek behind the building began seeping in. About 70 patients were being moved to other hospitals, spokeswoman Maria Ramos said.

Authorities cut power to the hospital as a precaution, and police and firefighters went door to door in Dyer telling people to leave.

Parts of Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota, meanwhile, continued cleaning up after earlier flooding. Nearly a week of powerful storms, heavy rain and devastating flooding across the Upper Midwest has damaged thousands of homes and been blamed for at least 17 deaths.

The storms in Illinois could be responsible for two additional deaths, officials said. The wind blew over a tree, killing a man in Victoria, and a relative found a man lying unconscious in more than 2 feet of water in his basement in Inverness, officials said.

Another round of storms had been forecast for Friday night, but weather officials later revised rainfall predictions to no more than half an inch and canceled flood watches for much of northern Illinois, said Casey Sullivan, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

"There's still a chance of rainfall, but we're not expecting as much and the potential for flash flooding is going away," Sullivan said.

No homes had been evacuated by Friday afternoon in Prospect Heights. The city is near O'Hare International Airport, but airport operations were not threatened.

Rising water on the Fox and Des Plaines rivers prompted authorities to increase the flood alert level for northern Lake County to red, the highest level. The Fox River was approaching 50-year levels, with flooding possible this weekend when water from rain-drenched Wisconsin arrives downstream.

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