Water surrounds the caboose near Lake Mendota.
MENDOTA – For many Mendotans, normal activities came to a standstill last week as a five-inch-plus rainstorm deluged much of the area within a 24-hour period. The heavy rain began Wednesday, April 17 and intensified overnight resulting in flooded streets, highways, basements and fields by early Thursday morning.
Rainfall reports from Mendota and other LaSalle County CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network) stations showed most LaSalle County communities receiving about five inches of rain as of early Thursday morning. The highest amount reported was in Tonica (5.85 inches) followed by Ottawa (5.75 inches), LaSalle (5.25 inches), Mendota (5.05 inches) and Peru (4.65 inches).
Although lighter rain continued off and on through the day Thursday, the amounts were much lower. As of Friday morning, Ottawa reported one inch of rain, Marseilles received .74 inches and other communities reported from a quarter- to a half-inch additional rain. Total rainfall amounts for the week ranged anywhere from six to eight inches.
All of Mendota’s schools were closed on Thursday as a safety precaution. Mendota High School Superintendent Jeff Prusator said they began to assess the weather situation before dawn on Thursday. The concern was whether buses would be able to navigate flooded streets in town as well as the country roads surrounding Mendota. “We decided to wait until about 6:15 a.m. to make a decision,” Prusator recalled. “We talked to Carl Ambler [Mendota Street Department] and Carl said the roads were likely to get worse, so we made the decision not to have school.”
Prusator explained that closing school because of heavy snow is generally an easier decision to make. “When it snows, I usually talk to other superintendents to see if they’re closing but with this, we were on our own,” he said. “This was a unique situation - we didn’t know what was coming - but once we made the decision to close, the other area schools made the same call.”
Unlike many other parts of town, Prusator said there was no flood damage at the high school. “We were very fortunate.”
Using a “snow day” last week means the schedule for final exams at MHS will be extended by one day, Prusator noted. Exams will be held on May 22, 23 and 24. There will be no change in MHS’s graduation, which takes place on Saturday, May 25.
On Friday, after surveying flood damage around the state with emergency officials, Governor Pat Quinn declared 38 counties - including LaSalle and Bureau - state disaster areas. A press release issued by the governor’s office advised residents to continue taking precautions and stay off the roads if possible. Quinn explained that the state disaster declaration makes available state resources to help affected communities respond and recover from flooding. The state declaration is also necessary to begin the process of securing federal relief.
On Sunday, Quinn visited Marseilles, Ottawa, Utica and Morris along the Illinois River. Marseilles experienced some of the worst damage in the state including the evacuation of more than 60 residents at a nursing home, over 200 voluntary home evacuations and the closure of a 700-student elementary school.
“Over the past four days, I’ve seen some of the worst destruction caused by flooding ever but I've also seen the incredible strength of our public safety officials and citizens as they fight to save their homes and communities,” Governor Quinn said. “We will get through this, and we will continue to help all of the affected communities recover."
On Sunday, Ogle and Stark counties were added to the state disaster declaration, bringing the number of counties that can get expanded access to state emergency resources to 44 and allowing the state to pursue federal relief and support. Counties included in the state disaster declaration are Adams, Brown, Bureau, Calhoun, Carroll, Cass, Champaign, Cook, DeKalb, Douglas, DuPage, Fulton, Greene, Grundy, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Jersey, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kendall, Knox, Lake, LaSalle, Livingston, Marshall, Mason, McDonough, McHenry, Mercer, Morgan, Ogle, Peoria, Pike, Putnam, Rock Island, Schuyler, Scott, Stark, Tazewell, Whiteside, Will, Winnebago and Woodford.
Mendota clean up
The City of Mendota is providing dumpsters for residents affected by the flood. The dumpsters will be available through Saturday, April 27 and are located at the Mendota Swimming Pool parking lot. Only items affected by the flood will be accepted. NO appliances or electronics will be accepted at the dumpsters.
Appliances may be taken to Buckman Recycling, which is located at the intersection of Main and 5th streets in Mendota. Electronics must be disposed of through proper recycling programs.
Free tetanus shots
The LaSalle County Health Department is offering tetanus vaccinations free of charge for LaSalle County residents through Friday, April 26. The Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis) vaccinations will be available on a walk-in basis at the health department, 717 Etna Rd., Ottawa from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The need for tetanus vaccination during flood recovery depends on individual circumstances. People are generally advised to receive a routine tetanus booster dose every 10 years. Anyone who receives a cut or is injured and has not received, or is not sure if they have received, a tetanus vaccine within the last five years should receive a booster dose. Outbreaks of communicable disease after floods are rare. Increases in infectious disease that were not present in a community before the flood are usually not a problem after a flood.
The LaSalle County Health Department has offered general cleaning guidelines for flood clean up, which may help prevent the transmission disease and reduce property loss:
Discard any contaminated objects that cannot be thoroughly washed or laundered.
Wash contaminated surfaces and objects with warm soapy water and disinfect with a solution of bleach and water (no more than one cup of bleach per one gallon of water). For objects that would be damaged by bleach, use a home or laundry disinfectant.
Make sure to read and follow label instructions. Do not use ammonia. Do not mix ammonia and bleach; the vapors are hazardous.
Scrub and wash all objects in the affected area of your home including clothes, exposed to flood waters. Use warm, not hot, tap water with soap.
County residents whose private water well has been flooded may contact the LaSalle County Health Department for a water testing kit. Disinfecting procedures for water wells can be found in the “After the Flood” document, which is available on the health department’s website at www.lasallecounty.org/hd.
For more information, please contact the Health Department at (815) 433-3366 or (800) 247-5243.