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Officials: Flooding may not be as bad as thought

The floodwaters from the Illinois River get closer to Utica on Wednesday afternoon. The village is under a voluntary evacuation.
The floodwaters from the Illinois River get closer to Utica on Wednesday afternoon. The village is under a voluntary evacuation.

Utica officials received new projections on Illinois River flooding Wednesday afternoon, and it may not be as bad as originally thought.

The latest projections show that Route 178, Utica's main street, will not be flooded, officials said.

"It could come up right to the edge of Route 178. It'll be close," Utica Police Chief Rodney Damron said in an interview at village hall. "If Route 178 were to flood, we would have to relocate village hall and the police department to (township hall). There would be issues for sure."

Mayor David Stewart said the flooding is projected to reach some houses near the river as well as Clark Street Studio Pottery. The town remains under a voluntary evacuation.

The mayor said he didn't expect a mandatory evacuation, like the one in Marseilles.

With a mandatory evacuation, the government cannot force residents to leave, but can prevent them from returning until the order is lifted.

On Wednesday afternoon, Stewart and Damron met in village hall's front office with officials from a variety of organizations, including the Army Corps of Engineers and Ameren.

In a news release, the village said the projected crest of the river is about 3 feet below what the record crest was in the spring of 2013. The flooding may affect a few low-lying structures as well as basements and crawl spaces in Utica, the release said.

As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, the side streets south of Washington Street will be restricted to authorized personnel because of rising floodwaters.

Residents are urged to take precautions to protect personal property and prepare for flooding in and around the affected areas.

Once water enters an area, access can be denied due to safety concerns, the news release said. Gas service may be interrupted at Ameren's discretion and as of right now, electric service is expected to be maintained but is subject to the utility's discretion, the release said.

"Moreover, please note that as in the past, the Illinois River recedes very slowly after a crest; sometimes as little as one foot to a foot and a half per day," the release said. "Additional rainfall at any time during the next seven to 10 days could cause the river to start to rise again."

Updates will be on Utica's website, utica-il.gov.

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