Utica, Washburn drenched in flood water, prepare for more

By Anna Yee

April 18, 2013 Updated Apr 18, 2013 at 9:43 PM CDT

UTICA, Ill. -- Robin Strauch doesn't know how long it will be before the water recedes and her elderly mother can return to her Washburn home.

"Oh, my God. I've never seen it this bad before," said Strauch. "It has been close to this. I mean, comes up and goes right back down, but never up and staying as high as it has."

Across the street, Grant Memorial Park is submerged in several feet of water, but that didn't keep away some residents from playing in it.

It's a more deserted scene at this Utica mobile home park, which was evacuated Thursday morning.

"It was probably 2 foot deeper, easily, at least," said Ken Barnhardt, a lifelong Utica resident. "I mean, it has gone down fast. So, that's good."

Utica authorities started acting as early as 4 Thursday morning and were head quartered at Waltham Elementary School, where classes were cancelled for the day.

Waltham Elementary did not get any kind of flood damage, but the school is taking proper precautions to prevent future flooding, through sand-bagging entryways to block running water.

But, Utica authorities are preparing for another possible evacuation, this time in the south end of town.

"This water will rise rapidly," said Chief Gary Gbur, of the Utica Fire Protection District. "They have time to prepare themselves, but when they're requested to leave, they need to leave."

River levels are expected to exceed record levels, but most residents are used to getting back on their feet.

(Does this make you want to move out of Utica?) Nah," said Barnhardt. "Love the town."

If an evacuation is called, Utica authorities will assist in efforts and advise getting help from the local Red Cross if needed.

The school superintendent says any closings will be announced Friday morning.

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