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Rock River inundates Hillsdale area; Illinois River threatens Peoria area

February 25, 1997

HILLSDALE, Ill. (AP) _ Fire Chief Rick Mitton took a boat to work Monday as the overflowing Rock River forced hundreds from their homes in this northwest Illinois community.

Most of Hillsdale’s 500 residents left their homes in a voluntary weekend evacuation as the river rose 5 feet above flood stage, Mitton said.

``Ninety-five percent of the town is in water. It varies from knee-high to way up over your head,″ he said, adding that about 3 1/2 inches covered the fire station floor.

Floodwaters also covered about 15,000 acres of farmland and two subdivisions in nearby Erie, a town of 1,700, Fire Chief K.B. Melton said. Up to 200 people, mostly farmers, left their homes for higher ground over the weekend and schools were closed on Monday.

A large ice jam about two miles upstream had authorities concerned that a sudden break could overrun the town. They were also trying to plug three breaks in a railroad dike about a mile east of town and two breaks in a Rock River levee west of town.

In central Illinois, dozens of families left their homes in low-lying areas along the rising Illinois River near the tiny town of Rome. Downriver, Peoria-area residents continued sandbagging as the river climbed to 5 1/2 feet above flood stage.

Heavy rain last month compounded by 4 inches of rain Friday triggered much of the flooding. The National Weather Service predicted the Illinois River would crest in Peoria Friday at 8 feet above flood stage.

Although Monday brought clear skies and cold temperatures that helped keep waterways in check, some people were bracing for the worst.

``It’s still going to be a bad flood,″ said Bob Matthews, owner of Rome’s Lawn and Garden store.

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