A catastrophic flood predicted to hit the Illinois River Valley in late April fortunately ended up not happening.
But what happened was a communication network founded by State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, that included trained flood, public works and public safety officials from five counties and 18 communities was kept in contact on news and strategy developments.
“It was a good feeling,” he said.
In the last major area flood in April 2013, communities were caught unprepared for a deluge that caused major damage and hampered efficient response.
But last April, officials were ready.
The flood warning was issued by the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, Minn. That office handles predictions for 400 forecast points from Canada deep into Illinois.
At first, local officials were puzzled, Rezin recalled.
“They said, ‘It doesn’t seem like it’s raining very much. Why is another historic flood being predicted?’ ” she said.
It turned out the flooding prediction was being driven by anticipated heavy rainfall in the Kankakee River basin that would shoot water into the Illinois River.
Of critical concern was that the river level initially was predicted to peak at midnight the following day — an awkward time for evacuations.
However, before changing weather conditions prevented the flooding, local officials were organized.
A conference call was set for the next morning where weather information was shared and response points, such as when to call for evacuations, were discussed and other periodic contact times were scheduled.
“If we would have had the coalition in place in 2013 we could have been preparing the day before the worse flooding hit,” said Rezin. “Now we have that opportunity.”
Anthony Heddlesten, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood engineer at the meeting, said the Illinois Valley Flood Alliance is being considered as a model organization to be implemented elsewhere in Illinois.
However, instead of being formed based on Illinois Senate districts, which change every 10 years, they might instead be organized by the natural drainage basins of watersheds.