Illinois River levels are now anticipated to reach major flood stages, and come in just shy of local records, according to the latest measurements Wednesday.
The river level is projected to reach 8 feet above the flood stage, or around 1 foot shy of the record, at Morris by noon Thursday. Damage to residences and outlying areas of Morris and Marseilles are expected at 2 feet prior to that, including numerous secondary roads.
Marseilles Police Chief Brian Faber said all eyes are on the river, but he's optimistic.
"As of right now, it looks to be OK," Faber said. "At this time the biggest thing is to wait and see what the weather does."
The city of Marseilles will institute a voluntary evacuation at 7 feet above the flood stage, which is projected to occur at 1 a.m. Thursday. A mandatory evacuation is planned for if the river level rises 8.6 feet above the flood stage.
Faber said the city is following through on its flood safety plan and complimented the City Council and staff for speedy work in preparing for the flood.
As of right now, all they have to do is continue to watch the level and forecast.
"As of right now, it's sunny," Faber said. "Hopefully with the weather we don't get any rain and it stays away from us."
The projected flood crest rose sharply over the night and what was originally forecasted as minor flooding could become more severe.
The new projected level of flooding could bring Fox River waters to the center of the Ottawa Y parking lot and the top of the levee for the wastewater treatment plant by noon Thursday.
Additionally, the waters could rise to infiltrate the Ottawa River Rescue building.
Mathew Stafford, one of the city's floodplain managers, said the impact it will have on Ottawa still looks to be minor if the projection holds.
"There's not any urgency at this time to set up an emergency center. We have the players in place," Stafford said.
The city began regular communication with the Ottawa Y, Ottawa High School and OSF Saint Elizabeth Medical Center on Tuesday regarding the flooding and Ottawa High School due to the rising water levels and predicted closing of Green Street.
"We've been through this before," Stafford noted.
The impact of flood on Ottawa has diminished dramatically in recent years through the city's strategic buyout program sponsored by the federal government which included homes in what is currently known as Fox River Park and the Former Central School site.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Ottawa closed Green Street, Allen Park, Champlain Street at the aqueduct, Fox River Park, Riverwalk, Albin Stevens Drive, Hudson Street, St. George Street and East Main Park is closed at Main Street.
If the projected flood level were to rise an additional foot, the west parking lot of OSF St. Elizabeth Medical Center would flood while an additional 2.5 feet from the projection would be the top of the Fox River levee.
Stafford said the current projection isn't close to requiring a closure of the East Main Street bridge which was closed in 2013 and would effectively isolate some of the east side of the city.
Rain is in the forecast for Thursday, but Stafford said unless the amount is significant it will only delay the reduction of the water level but shouldn't rise the current projected crest level Thursday afternoon.
He further advised residents to adhere to road barricades, turn around if roads are covered with water and keep an eye on their own basements.
La Salle and Starved Rock
In La Salle, major flooding also is projected. The river is expected to be 12.5 feet above the flood stage, also bumping it into major flooding. If flood water were to increase another half foot, a couple structures would be threatened in downtown La Salle.
As of Wednesday, river levels were about 6.5 feet above flood stage, meaning low levels of Starved Rock State Park were flooded. The lower level parking area was closed Tuesday in anticipation.
The Times will continue to update this story as the situation continues.
An emergency meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday to discuss flooding plans. The village board will vote to give the village president authority to make decisions in the event of emergency flooding.
Follow the river levels at home
Illinois River at Ottawa: https://bit.ly/2WhyHTS.
Illinois River at Morris: https://bit.ly/2vvz8y5.