Floodwater sends barges slamming into Illinois dam - KMSP-TV

Marseilles evacuated, floodwater sends barges slamming into dam

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Rapid currents from this week's heavy rainstorms tore seven cargo barges away from a towing vessel and sent them slamming into a dam along the Illinois River at Marseilles.

The Coast Guard says the dam sustained minor damage in Thursday night's incident but there were no reports of breaches in the structure or surrounding levees. No one was injured.

A Coast Guard news release says floodwater was at record levels and water was flowing over the levees.

Authorities evacuated as many as 1,500 residents of the northern city.

Connie Brooks of the LaSalle County Emergency Management Agency says the residents, including those in a nursing home, were evacuated late Thursday night.

She says there is expected to be more flooding but she did not anticipate further evacuations.

Residents in the area were still worried Friday night.

"The only thing saving us right now is that canal, but when the garbage comes into the canal it's gonna clog it up and pretty much this whole street's gonna be covered," says Marseilles resident Jason Beldon. "And then the next one and the next one after that."

Jason Beldon's basement has a few feet of water already. He and his mother hope no more comes in.

"We've never seen this before," says resident Vicki Nicholson. "We had a lot of people here this morning that were coming here crying, pointing to where their houses were saying I live there and I live there."

It was just after midnight that the raging Illinois River overflowed the levee that stood between it and a third of the town and raced through streets and into homes.

People had been warned of the impending need to evacuate, but many didn't heed the calls to get out until nine barges broke free from their moorings a mile up river and slammed into the dam. Then people knew the threat was upon them.

"Years and no I've never seen anything like this," says Marseilles Police Chief Jim Hovious. "Most folks in town have not either, this really is record flooding for us here."

Tanya Dial lived in a home beyond the second stop sign. She's trying to stay positive because her family and pets all got out.

"The real shock is going to be in a few days when we actually get to go back to the house and go in," says Dial. "It is in my living room and nothing will be salvageable. Nothing."

Chris "Bubba" Blue braved the floodwaters to retrieve some fresh clothes.

"Everything's gone on the inside," Blue says. "It's up in the front room and everything's gone."

No one is sure how much higher the water will go, or how long it will take to recede, but police urge people to be patient.

"We do understand this is a devastating flood," says Hovious. "People you know had very little time to evacuate and they've lost many many things and we know they want to get back in and see the loss, but we don't want any loss of life."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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