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DeKalb County begins cleaning up

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Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Bruce Bickner (from left), Brian Bickner and Lance McGill work to start a generator to help clear the knee-deep water that flooded the basement of the home of their friends Mort and Ann Carrel on Friday afternoon on Fairmont Drive in DeKalb. After consecutive rainstorms raised the Kishwaukee River to its highest levels in about two decades, area residents were looking for some relief. “Hopefully the worst is over,” Brian Bickner said.
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Chronicle photo KATE WEBER Tim McGough, 20, takes his dog Mary for a walk along John Street to visit friends Friday afternoon in DeKalb. The 6-month-old puppy had never swum before but “apparently” took right to the water, her owner said.

DeKALB - Mort Carrel measured progress Friday by how high the water in the basement reached his leg. Friday morning, it was mid-thigh on the 6-foot man. By 7 p.m., it was just below his knee. He stood Friday evening in the basement of his Fairmont Drive home in DeKalb waiting for the generator he had bought earlier that day to start pumping water out. Mort and his wife, Ann, were among the numerous DeKalb County residents fighting to clear their homes of water Friday, after a pair of storms dumped 4.85 inches of rain in 24 hours. The rain caused the Kishwaukee River to swell, resulting in widespread flooding in DeKalb and Sycamore. The Carrels already had a sump pump and hose siphoning water out Friday, but more was needed - especially since more rain was expected. They've lived there for 19 years but have never had flooding this bad before. &#8220We only had probably 6 inches in '96,” Ann Carrel said, referring to the last time their home flooded. &#8220This is worse.” For those in the path of the rising waters, Friday was a day to pump out basements, sandbag buildings and hope the skies didn't open up again and pour more water down on an already weary county. And some grace may have been given: The National Weather Service in Romeoville predicted a few scattered showers in the county for overnight, and expected no more than a half-inch of rain to fall. The NWS canceled a flash flood warning Friday night it had issued earlier in the day, but meteorologist Casey Sullivan stressed a warning for ongoing flooding was in effect until noon today. There were no deaths or major injuries reported by area law enforcement officials by 10 p.m. Friday. Both DeKalb and Sycamore declared states of emergency by Friday afternoon. DeKalb officials have said they will seek help from the county and state, and they estimate hundreds of people have been displaced. However, Gov. Rod Blagojevich did not include DeKalb County when he declared four counties - Cook, Kane, Lake and McHenry - state disaster areas Friday afternoon. Northern Illinois University meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste said Friday's flood is one of the top two worst floods for the area, and could still set the record. It's the worst flood since July 2, 1983, when waters crested at 15.80 feet, he said. The river crested Friday at 15.24 feet, he said. The river was expected to be down to 14.2 feet by 7 a.m. today and to continue to decrease throughout the day, said meteorologist Stephen Rodriguez with the NWS in Romeoville. Busy day Officials kept busy throughout the day Friday, visiting flooded areas and helping evacuate those in danger. Fire and law enforcement officials from throughout the county worked to evacuate about 90 residents of the Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park from before dawn to nearly 4 p.m. Lt. Van Bomar with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office said about 11 people stayed in Evergreen Village. He did not have a damage estimate as of 10 p.m. Friday. Entrance to the park was to be restricted until 7 a.m. today, at which time it was to be re-evaluated for safety. About 35 residents of the Edgebrook Mobile Homes in Sycamore also were evacuated due to flooding. Most of those people were taken to a shelter set up by the DeKalb County Chapter of the American Red Cross. While the shelter initially was set up at the Recreation Center at NIU, it moved to the DeKalb Park District's Sports and Recreation Center at 1765 S. Fourth St. later in the day because it could better accommodate the people displaced by the flooding, DeKalb city officials said. Residents arrived with plastic bags and duffle bags, carrying the few possessions they managed to grab before leaving their homes. A few arrived with dogs in tow, and one person brought a cage with parakeets. More than a dozen streets throughout the county remained closed to traffic Friday night. Law enforcement officials offered thanks to motorists for obeying the signs, although at least one driver moved barriers and then got stuck in the water Friday morning. Police and city officials urge residents to continue to use caution when near flooded areas. Six inches of water can reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control and possible stalling, DeKalb Police said in a statement. &#8220Parents should not allow kids to swim or play in standing water, because there could be sinkholes or floating debris, depending on what area it is in,” Sycamore Assistant City Manager Brian Gregory said Friday night. &#8220Use good common sense and caution.” It was unknown Friday what the flooding would mean for the agricultural areas of the county. The significant amounts of rain could be an issue for the corn and soybean crops, DeKalb County Farm Bureau spokeswoman Mariam Wassman said. &#8220We've got some ponding and flooding, which is more of an issue than the storm,” she said. &#8220We won't really know for sure (the full effect) until (farmers) start harvesting. The soybeans will be impacted more than the corn, because the corn crop is already made.” The flooding caused homeowners to head to hardware stores to buy equipment to empty their homes of water. Gordon's Do-It-Best Hardware opened at 7 a.m. Friday with around 20 sump pumps in stock. Shortly after 8 a.m., the store was sold out, employee Matt Murray said. &#8220We close at 5:30, and our owner was here until 7:30 last night selling them,” he said. &#8220Every time he'd finish one sale, somebody else would walk in.” Pitching in The rising waters also brought out those who wanted to help their neighbors. Volunteers from the Red Cross and The Salvation Army were assisting people displaced by the flood, providing shelter, food and comfort. The Corn Fest Board donated the food it had intended for its sponsor dinner to the people staying at the shelter. DeKalb Alderman Victor Wogen, 3rd Ward, was among the dozens of volunteers who spent much of their day Friday filling sandbags at the city's public works building. &#8220We were out looking to buy a submersible (sump) pump to help our neighbor pump out their basement,” Wogen said as he shoveled sand into bags held by his wife, Kathy. &#8220Of course, we couldn't find one anywhere. On our way back, we heard they needed people to come down here and bag.” Some of those bags wound up at Mort and Ann Carrel's home. They piled sandbags at the entrance of their two-car garage in hopes of keeping water out and to allow them to continue working to pump the water out of the basement. Friends arrived to help with the generators, and other friends showed up with pizza and pop. Ann spent the morning cleaning out the basement, which is used mostly for storage of items like winter clothing and holiday decorations. Christmas ornaments lay on the dining room table, drying out. Equipment and files from Mort's office, which also is in the basement, were drying out in the couple's sunroom. The boxes were destroyed, but Ann thinks most of the items are salvageable. Dirt was tracked onto carpet, but Ann said she would shampoo it. &#8220We're really fortunate, compared to the people at the end of the street,” she said. &#8220The water is up to their top step in their basement.” Daily Chronicle Staff Writers Dana Herra and Benji Feldheim contributed to this report. Kate Schott can be reached at kschott@daily-chronicle.com.

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